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City councilors file ordinance to offer paid parental leave to Boston employees

For the first time, eligible city employees could have to opportunity to receive paid parental leave, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced in a Monday press release.

Boston city councilors filed an ordinance Monday for the city’s first paid parental leave policy for city employees. PHOTO BY ERIN BILLINGS/DFP FILE PHOTO
Boston city councilors filed an ordinance Monday for the city’s first paid parental leave policy for city employees. PHOTO BY ERIN BILLINGS/DFP FILE PHOTO

Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu and Tim McCarthy filed the ordinance, which, if passed by the City Council, will grant up to six weeks of paid parental leave to city employees, the release stated.

The councilors’ ordinance will be assigned to a committee, where there will be hearing process prior to a vote, the release stated. If the ordinance passes with a majority vote from the City Council, Walsh will sign it into effect on April 7.

As a new mother, Wu said she sought ways to alleviate the stress that comes with merging an expanding family and professional life.

“It’s really important that people who are thinking about expanding their family and either adopting or having a new baby, can still stay in the workforce if they choose and they’re not faced with a really unfair choice of picking between their professional advancement and career and having a family,” Wu said.

The ordinance will grant up to six weeks of paid parental leave to both men and women, including same-sex couples, who have been working for the City for at least one year, the release stated. The policy allows the six-week parental leave to be taken “by day or week” within the first year after an employee’s child is born or adopted.

“It is important for parents to be engaged in a child’s early life. I am thankful that Councilors Wu and McCarthy are supportive of this initiative, to grant parents who devote their lives to public service the hard-earned support they deserve,” Walsh said in the release. “My office is proud to support and introduce policies that advance both men and women in the workplace and all aspects of city life.”

Walsh said he also hopes other places of business will adopt a similar ordinance.

The policy applies to eligible employees’ birth of newborns, adoption, surrogacy or other methods, as well as stillbirths. The pay structure will account for 100 percent of wages for the first two weeks, 75 percent for the third and fourth week and 50 percent for the fifth and sixth weeks.

McCarthy emphasized the importance of spending time with children immediately following a birth or adoption.

“As a dad, I remember those days and how important it was,” he said. “Not only for our first baby, but when the second one came around, we had one toddler sprinting around causing havoc and an infant, and it’s very stressful.”

If the ordinance passes, Walsh will update the former Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act of 1972, renaming it the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act. Currently, the law demands employers with six or more employees provide an unpaid eight-week maternity leave for the employees. Creating a policy for both male and female parental leave is a change from the current act.

“There are 178 countries right now that have some sort of paid leave for maternity and paternity, and Boston should lead, so we’re going to lead this country, and that’s where we belong,” McCarthy said.

Several residents said they agree with a parental leave ordinance, citing gender equality and parental responsibility as the largest priorities.

Christy Rozek, 21, of Fenway, said paid parental leave is important for closing the gender gap.

“We should have paid parental leave, especially paternal leave so there’s no separation,” she said. “The only thing I think is a problem is the financial toll on companies, but even if there is, I think taking that time off is important.”

Amanda O’Hara-Pelychaty, 36, of Charlestown, said the paid parental leave establishes a precedent for other communities.

“Establishing paid parental leave for City of Boston employees is a huge step forward and long overdue. As a mother of two, I know how important the first months are in terms of bonding with your child,” she said. “Since most city employees are required to live in the city, this ordinance should not be viewed as a giveaway, but as an investment in the strengthening of our communities.”

Danica Drezner, a sophomore in Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, said paid parental leave is just as valuable to parents as it is to children.

“New parents should have maternal and paternity leave due to the fact that it’s not always easy to acclimate to the lifestyle of being a new parent because there always comes a lot of responsibility,” she said. “Plus psychologically, it’s not always best to go back to work right away due to the fact that parents aren’t adjusted to their new routine just yet.”

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