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Top St. Pete headlines in 2015: No. 10 – Paid paternity leave

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Editor’s note: As 2015 winds down, SPB is taking a look back at the year’s news in St. Pete and assembled a list of the top 10 most interesting developments. Whether the news evoked outrage in the community, excitement or even heartbreak, these are the top headlines of the past year.

No. 10: Paid paternity leave

Mayor Rick Kriseman announced in December 2014 that he would change city policy to allow six weeks paid leave for new parents. The change, effective Jan. 1, 2015, extended to biological mothers and fathers, and to adoptive parents.

The United States ranks dead last among 37 other developed nations in family leave policies. That’s according to a study by the Pew Research Center that analyzes the amount of paid time off families get for the birth or adoption of a child. The United States does not provide any paid leave.

Kriseman’s move was aimed at setting an example for other areas in the region.

“Allowing our employees to spend quality, paid time with the newest members of their families is the right thing to do and makes for better parents and employees,” Kriseman said in a news release. “Most importantly, this policy will benefit our children — the future of St. Petersburg.”

While the initial announcement actually happened in late 2014, the move rippled into the new year and drew praise from one of the nation’s top labor officials. Secretary of labor Thomas Perez visited the city in May to congratulate Kriseman on his forward-thinking policies.

That included not just expanded parental leave policies, but also extending sick leave to immediate family members.

“You shouldn’t have to win the boss lottery to take care of a sick kid,” Perez said during a press conference on the steps of City Hall. “Parents are putting sick children on the school bus because they can’t afford to miss work.”

During that same press conference Perez also gave a nod to some St. Pete employers for progressive employee leave policies including C1 Bank and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The paid leave improvements were one of several steps the Kriseman administration has so far taken to improve employee moral. Kriseman has taken steps to improve diversity and equality in the workforce, raised the minimum wage for workers and expanded a city health center where employees can get free or low-cost healthcare on the clock to part-time workers. That center had previously only been available to full-time employees.

That final move is still subject to City Council approval and is a part of collective bargaining with the city’s employee union.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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