Portland adopts paid leave for new parents

City of Portland employees can now get six weeks’ paid parental leave when a new child joins their family, under a new policy adopted Wednesday by the City Council.

Mothers and fathers can take advantage of the paid leave after the birth of a baby, an adoption or taking on a foster child.

“Parental leave has a positive impact on parents bonding with their children,” testified Anna Kanwit, the city human resources director. Some studies show it’s even more important for fathers, to get them more comfortable with their new child and establish a better long-term parental relationship.

Travis Powell, a city firefighter with a new three-month-old at home, was one of several city employees testifying in favor of the new benefit.

The council approved the policy by a 4-0 vote. Mayor Charlie Hales missed the vote but supports the idea, said Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who introduced the proposal.

City employees already were eligible for up to 12 weeks’ family medical leave, but that’s unpaid, unless employees use their sick or vacation pay.

The paid leave policy, which takes effect in January, will cost the city an estimated $413,000 to $502,000 a year.

Paid parental leave is commonplace in Europe but just starting to spread in the United States.

Portland joins Multnomah County, which recently approved six week’s paid leave for its employees. Other local governments, such as San Francisco and King County, Washington, provide 12 weeks’ leave. Some big corporations and European nations often provide leaves for longer periods.

Parental leave “is a necessity in a civilized society,” said Commissioner Steve Novick.

Others said the policy should be make it easier for the city to recruit and retain employees.

Fritz said she hoped that private companies in Portland will now add paid parental leave.

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