San Francisco Adopted the Most Aggressive Paid Parental Leave in the U.S., and Data Shows It’s Working

In 2016, I authored San Francisco’s paid parental leave ordinance, guaranteeing new parents 6 weeks of 100% paid parental leave to bond with a new child, the most expansive paid parental leave guarantee in the country.

The law is working. New data from the first half of this year shows a significant increase in San Francisco workers taking this leave — a 6% increase among women (compared to almost no increase statewide) and a whopping 28% increase among men (compared to a 3 — 9% increase statewide).

(Celebrating San Francisco’s paid parental leave ordinance. Photo: New York Times per linked story)

These numbers are significant for a few reasons. First, the data confirms that fully paid leave avoids the core problem with leave that provides no or partial pay: that people simply can’t afford to take leave. Even under California’s state paid parental leave law, the most generous state program in the country, parents still must take a 30 — 40% pay cut to stay home with a new child. That’s not doable for many low-income and working-class parents.

Second, the sharp increase among men taking paid parental leave in San Francisco is heartening since having both men and women take leave creates longer-term equity in employment. When only women take leave, they fall behind men in the workplace, exacerbating the pay gap and other workplace inequities.

Third, during the first half of 2017 (the time period for this data), San Francisco’s law was in effect only for companies with 50 or more workers. By this coming January 1, 2018, the law will apply to employers with 20 or more workers, a much larger pool of workers. So, we saw a spike in paid parental leave even before the law was applicable to all workers who will eventually be covered.

I’m proud that San Francisco is leading the way on paid parental leave. California, too, is becoming more aggressive, having recently increased what the state pays for bonding leave and expanded the pool of workers who receive job-protected parental leave.

The United States is so far behind other countries on paid family leave, and we need to catch up. These results give me optimism that we can do so and that it will work.

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