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San Francisco: First US city to require paid parental leave benefits

Parental leave advocates say the issue is gaining momentum across the US. Silicon Valley firms are leading the way with new benefits. 

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Women hold up signs at a rally supporting paid family leave at City Hall in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 5, 2016. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is voting on whether to require six weeks of fully paid leave for new parents - a move that would be a first for any jurisdiction.

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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San Francisco approved a measure Tuesday making it the first place in the nation to require businesses to provide fully paid leave for new mothers and fathers to spend time with their new child.

Parental leave advocates say the issue is gaining momentum across the country much like the debate over a higher minimum wage.

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They say the measure is needed because too many parents can't afford to lose pay to take time off after a birth or adoption.

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Some big companies and government entities already provide such benefits, but smaller businesses argue the action in San Francisco is another expensive mandate they can't afford. The US lags other many countries in providing parental leave and is the only major industrialized nation that doesn't require paid leave.

Here are some things to know about the measure:

WHAT DOES THE MEASURE DO?

The state of California currently allows workers to receive 55 percent of their pay for up to six weeks to bond with a new child. The money comes from a state insurance program funded by workers. The measure in San Francisco requires private employers to make up the remainder of a parent's full pay for six weeks.

WHO IS AFFECTED?

The benefit applies to new mothers and fathers who work at least eight hours a week and spend at least 40 percent of their work week within San Francisco boundaries.

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The regulation will be phased in, starting with businesses that employ 50 workers or more in January 2017.

Businesses with 35 to 49 workers must comply starting in July 2017, and businesses with 20 to 34 workers have until January 2018.

The legislation does not apply to the federal, state or other municipal governments.

WHAT IS THE POLICY FOR SAN FRANCISCO GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES?

People who work for the city and county of San Francisco receive up to 12 weeks of paidleave. In comparison, the city of Portland and Multnomah County in Oregon offer six weeks to its employees. New York City offers six weeks of fully paid leave to its nonunion employees.

HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO OTHER PARENTAL LEAVE POLICIES?

California, New Jersey and Rhode Island offer partial pay for new parents through state disability insurance programs. New York approved legislation last month that calls for partial pay for up to 12 weeks.

HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO PRIVATE EMPLOYERS?

Some big-name technology companies in hyper-competitive Silicon Valley offer generous paid leave benefits to attract and retain workers. Netflix, for example, offers up to one year of paid leave for salaried workers and 12 to 16 weeks for hourly workers.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that Netflix chief talent officer Tawni Cranz wrote last August when announcing the new plan:

"We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances,” wrote Tawni Cranz. “Netflix’s continued success hinges on us competing for and keeping the most talented individuals in their field. Experience shows people perform better at work when they’re not worrying about home.”

Tech companies are known to offer some of the best parental leave programs in the country, according to a March survey by The Atlantic. Google, for instance, offers biological mothers 18 weeks of paid maternity leave and 22 if there are complications. Parents can also take up to 12 weeks of paid baby-bonding time.Facebook gives all new parents up to four months paid leave plus $4,000 in “baby cash.” Apple also offers expectant mothers up to 18 weeks of paid leave, while fathers and non-birth parents can take up to six weeks.

The fight to find and keep talented employees is part of what’s pushing change, as companies lure potential workers with competitive benefits packages.

Twitter announced Tuesday it would provide 20 weeks of paid leave starting May 1, reported Fortune.

“The goal of this change was to expand how we think about parental leave,” says Jeffrey Siminoff, Twitter’s newly-appointed VP of inclusion and diversity (the exec joined the company from Apple about eight weeks ago). “Primary caregiving is something that’s hard to define.”