San Diego may triple paid parental leave from four weeks to 12 weeks to reduce employee turnover

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The new proposal would triple the amount of paid leave San Diego provides to city employees who become new parents, from four weeks to 12 weeks.

The goal is to reduce turnover and increase hiring efforts in the city, which is the region’s eighth-largest employer with more than 11,000 workers.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic rocked labor markets, San Diego has experienced a job crunch that has hovered around 1,700 vacancies.

Councilman Raul Campillo’s proposal follows a recent trend in major U.S. cities.

Last year, Los Angeles implemented a new policy that provides six weeks of paid parental leave. This year, Minneapolis increased paid parental leave from three weeks to 12, Chicago increased it from six weeks to 12, and Phoenix implemented a new policy that calls for 12 weeks.

Cities are tasked with providing assistance because the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not provide federal paid parental leave.

The proposed city policy applies to all parents.

California gives pregnant workers disability leave, but they receive about 70 percent of their regular pay instead of full pay. This benefit is part of California’s Paid Family Leave policy.

State and federal governments provide unpaid parental leave, which includes the right to return to work.

Campilla said studies show paid parental leave policies are correlated with rates of low birth weight, postpartum depression and infant mortality.

Such policies vary widely in the private sector, but Campilla said high-end employers, with whom the city often competes for workers, offer generous parental leave.

“We’re seeing so many people leave,” Campillo said Monday. “We have to be leaders in this matter.”

The changes he’s proposing would also create a new type of city disability called pregnancy disability that would be easier to use than the city’s long-term disability policy.

In addition, 12 weeks of fully paid leave will be extended to 14 weeks for mothers who have had a caesarean section or have complications with their newborn.

“Four weeks of paid parental leave is not competitive with other employers and does not support our workers and their newborns,” Campilla said. “The mismatch between what our city is offering parents and what other employers are offering means we’re losing experienced employees and spending more on training new employees.”

Michael Zuckett, the leader of the city’s largest union, said the city’s parental leave policy has been in need of an update for years.

“Even though there was a lot of general support at City Hall for the change, Councilman Campillo is rolling up his sleeves and taking the initiative to help make it happen,” said Zuckett, general manager of the Municipal Employees Association.

Campillo asked Mayor Todd Gloria to discuss increased benefits in new contracts with each of the city’s six labor unions when negotiations begin in the coming months.

The new benefits are expected to be included in the fiscal year 2024 budget, which the City Council must approve next June.

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