In her first year in office, Councilor Michelle Wu welcomed her first child, a jovial baby boy named Blaise. Wu’s joy was tempered when she examined the parental leave policy of her new employer.
The city of Boston does not offer paid leave for new mothers or fathers, an issue that Wu hopes to remedy soon. Wu and two of her colleagues, Councilors Timothy McCarthy and Tito Jackson, proposed an ordinance Monday that would make municipal employees eligible for six weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
“This is long overdue. The ordinance as proposed is a major step forward for working parents,” Wu said. “It’s our responsibility as a community, and also great for the city of Boston as an employer to recruit and maintain a talented and productive workforce.”
The councilors worked on the ordinance with the administration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who issued a statement endorsing the proposal.
“It is my hope that businesses will consider taking the same action steps to ensure families are thriving and healthy,” Walsh said.
The measure would apply equally to mothers and fathers and to same-sex couples. Paid parental leave would be available to employees who have a child by any method, including adoption and surrogacy. The benefit would also be available to a couple whose infant is stillborn.
The proposed ordinance would apply to employees who have worked for the city for at least a year. Employees would get all of their pay for the first two weeks of their leave. For the second two weeks, employees would receive 75 percent of their pay, followed by 50 percent in the final two weeks. Employees could receive full pay the entire six weeks by supplementing their leave with sick time or vacation.
As a councilor, Wu was not affected by the city’s lack of paid parental leave because as an elected official, she is accountable to voters and does not punch in and out on a time clock. To balance her career with motherhood, Wu has been lugging her son and his car seat into City Hall.
The measure is scheduled to be formally introduced Wednesday in the City Council and will be the subject of a public hearing. One issue officials want to address is how much the initiative will cost. Fertility at City Hall may be difficult to predict, but McCarthy said paid parental leave was a benefit the city could afford.
“When it comes down to Boston residents and Boston families, I think it’s a cost that should be and can be absorbed,” said McCarthy, who has two children, aged 15 and 17. “As a father of two boys, I know that bond that happens when those newborns are brought home. You only get that time once. It’s very important for the family unit.”
Andrew Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.