Twenty years ago, paid maternity leave for women in the workplace was rare. If pregnant employees wanted to take time off, they had to take unpaid leave or, worse, they had to quit their jobs.
Times are changing, and more employers now are including paid maternity leave and, in some cases, paternity leave as part of company benefits packages. But Congress has yet to pass a federal law requiring unpaid parental leave, although a bill was introduced in February to do so.
In this case, however, the city of Rock Hill might beat the federal government to the punch. During last week’s City Council budget workshop, city staff and council members discussed the possibility of adding paid maternity leave to the benefits offered city employees.
Mayor Doug Echols said he supported the proposal and asked city staff to also consider adding “a week or two” of paid paternity leave. Under the proposal, which would become effective July 1 if approved, female employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours during the pervious 12 consecutive months immediately preceding giving birth to a child would be eligible for four weeks of paid leave.
Women would receive full compensation for each week of leave. Leave may be taken at any time during pregnancy, and up to the date that is 180 days immediately following the birth, according to the plan.
Echols emphasized that it is important to keep the city as “family-friendly as possible” and touted the city’s policy of putting children first in all of its decision-making. We commend the city for considering a parental leave policy that does just that.
The U.S. lags behind much of the world in giving parents the time to spend with their newborns and adjust to the new arrangement without jeopardizing their livelihoods in the process. At least 180 nations around the world offer some form of mandatory paid time off for mothers after giving birth, and many offer leave for both parents.
While the 1993 federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to give full-time workers time off for childbirth or family illness, it doesn’t require them to give paid leave, and only 12 percent of U.S. employees have access to paid leave. That can make leave inaccessible to any family that might be living from paycheck to paycheck.
That also means the City of Rock Hill is something of a trendsetter in considering a generous paid leave policy. Congratulations to all who conceived of this proposal, and we hope the council will approve it.