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Bonding time: County Council establishes policy to provide employees 12 weeks of paid parental and family leave


Up to 12 weeks of leave for new moms and dads; also paid time off to care for sick family members


The Metropolitan King County Council today adopted a motion establishing a new county policy that working parents employed by King County will receive up to 12 weeks in paid parental leave after a birth, adoption, or new placement of a foster child.

“It is past time that the United States join the ranks of every single other developed nation in the world, and ensure that new moms and dads have an opportunity to bond with their child without sacrificing the very wages needed to support a family,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, author of the legislation. “Paid parental leave is not only the right thing to do for parents and kids, but as the private sector has demonstrated, it’s also fiscally responsible as it aids in recruitment and retention of valuable employees. As one of the top ten employers in the State of Washington, King County has an obligation to lead and be a model employer.”

“It is high time that Martin Luther King, Jr. County passes legislation to address the needs and wants of new parents,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “I consider this an important human rights issue that impacts children, parents and society. I am proud to join my other Councilmembers in sponsoring this legislation to provide 12 weeks of parental leave.”

“I look forward to working with the Executive on opportunities for parental leave,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “Parents should not have to choose between family and work.”

“Paid parental and family leave is key to the long-term success and wellness of families,” said Council Chair Larry Phillips. “It is a goal which should be pursued at the national, state and local levels in the private and public sector; as such, our actions today mark a significant step in promoting the well-being of children and families.”

The adopted motion is the first step towards adding King County and its more than 14,000 employees to the growing list of private sector companies and public sector jurisdictions that have adopted paid parental leave policies. These policies reflect the needs of a modern workforce in which around 64 percent of mothers with young children participate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The motion directs Executive Constantine to develop and transmit a plan for providing twelve weeks of one-hundred percent paid leave within a twelve-month period to King County employees who take time off work to bond with a new child or children resulting from a birth, adoption or new foster placement. The new leave policy would take effect no later than January 1, 2016 according to the Council motion, and employees would not be required to exhaust their vacation or sick leave benefits before using the new leave.

“Paid family leave gives new families a healthy start, prevents employees from having to choose between earning a paycheck and taking care of an ill loved one, and enhances gender equity in the workplace and the home,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott. “We recognize that employees are more than their jobs, and this policy can support them in the roles they take on as caregivers to people who are important to them.”

“I’m very excited that we’re one step closer to being an ‘employer of the future’,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “Our goal is to be an employer that offers many options in a streamlined and user-friendly benefit package.”

The motion also directs the County Executive to develop a workplan for providing paid family leave for eligible County employees to address the serious health condition of the employee or the employee’s parent, spouse, or domestic partner, or child.

Quotes from regional leaders regarding King County’s achievement:

“On behalf of our more than one million members across the nation, I thank Councilmember Dembowski for introducing this important legislation in King County,” said MomsRising Executive Director, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. “Providing access to paid parental leave is a vital step to improving economic security for our families, our communities and our economy. As we continue to fight for a national paid family leave bill, we applaud King County for leading by example and showing that investments in family leave are rewarded by productive, loyal employees and healthy and successful children, all of which helps to build a more stable, successful and prosperous society and economy. Thank you to King County for taking steps forward toward change.”

“Providing a full 12 weeks of paid leave is a huge step forward,” said Janet Chung, Legal and Legislative Counsel for Legal Voice. “King County is making real the promise of the Family Medical Leave Act by ensuring new parents can afford to use this leave. Not only will this policy help ensure a healthy start for growing families, because it provides paid leave for all new parents, regardless of gender, it will also help prevent gender stereotyping that too often keeps women from staying connected to the workforce and earning crucial income for their families.”

“As King County moves forward to create the best run government, paid parental leave is another essential piece in the compensation structure that will attract and retain quality employees,” said Dustin Frederick, Business Manager for the Public Safety Employees Union Local 519. “On behalf of the Labor Coalition we fully support Rod's efforts and thank him for being on the cutting edge in helping to shape King County's future.”

“We know that babies thrive best when their parents can spend those first weeks of life with them, with lasting benefits for their health and development,” said Dr. Marilyn P. Watkins, Policy Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute. “We also know that moms who have ample paid maternity leave are healthier, more likely to be employed a year later, and earn more than mothers without. So providing paid parental leave for all County employees will help families and our economy prosper. This is a great step forward toward the day when all parents and babies in our country have this commonsense benefit.”

“We applaud King County for taking this step for its employees,” said Liz Vivian, Executive Director of Women’s Funding Alliance. “Paid parental leave is critical to the long-term economic stability of women and their families. It also makes good business sense; access to paid leave allows women to continue in their jobs and on the path to future leadership and career growth.”

"All parents deserve the opportunity to bond with new children in their home,” said Janis Avery, Treehouse CEO. “For foster parents, that connection is key to helping children in their home acclimate and thrive in their new environment, as well as experience a real childhood.”

"Many families can’t afford to take uncompensated time off to bond with a newborn child and that hurts children, working moms and working families generally,” said Michael Gonzales, Teamsters Local 174. “The Teamsters commend Councilmember Dembowski for addressing this issue head on with his paid parental leave policy and hope others follow suit.”


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