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Expanded parental leave benefits on the horizon for city employees

Monday, May 9, 2022 by Kali Bramble

In step with their colleagues at the Travis County Commissioners Court, City Council members made preliminary moves last Thursday to expand the paid parental leave program for city employees.

The resolution, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, directs the city manager to conduct a cost analysis of several different policy structures and return within three months. Staff will weigh the fiscal implications of eight-, 10- and 12-week leave programs, as well as reducing the one-year employment requirement to six months.

“I’ll be honest, I’ve received lots of feedback these past few days of, why do we need another study? Can’t we just do it already?” Fuentes said. “I am very much of the mindset that we should expand our policy to a full 12 weeks, and I know that there’s a will on this Council to do that.”

Since 2013, those employed by the city for a year or longer have been awarded six weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child, with an additional six weeks of unpaid time off covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. But with the impact of the pandemic on labor markets, the conversation has shifted toward incentivizing employee retention with expanded benefits.

Changes first began taking shape in March, when Council expanded its existing six-week program to include sworn employees in the city’s fire, police and emergency medical services departments. Now, Fuentes says she hopes the city can double its paid leave offering by 2025.

City Manager Spencer Cronk will return before Council in the next three months with further information on the cost of various iterations of the expansion, including a phased implementation that would see paid leave extended to eight and 10 weeks by 2023 and 2024, respectively.

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