South Florida adopting paid parental leave. ‘We have to evolve as a workforce’

Paid Parental Leave — Courtesy: Shutterstock — New Africa

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Paid parental leave supporters have a new source of hope to point to as more and more cities and counties across South Florida are embracing the leave policy for their employees.

The latest employer to join the movement is Hallandale Beach, which recently became Broward County’s first city to approve paid parental leave for its workforce. Fort Lauderdale may be the next to join.

“As we’ve seen through this pandemic, cities are the frontlines of crafting policy to help people,” said City Commissioner Sabrina Javellana, who proposed that all parents get 12 paid weeks of pay for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child.

Javellana said that several cities, including Hallandale Beach, are stepping it up where higher government officials have failed. “We can be real leaders on paid family leave in the absence of a federal and state policy,” she said.

The other few cities or counties to offer paid parental leave in Florida include Broward County, Wellington, Miami Beach, and Coral Gables.

President Joe Biden had proposed a plan offering 12 weeks of paid parental leave as part of a bill that would outline a 10-year spending initiative for expanding healthcare, education, and child care support.

But the paid family leave provision — in addition to an effort to lower prescription drug pricing — is expected to be scaled down to four weeks or be slashed from the package as negotiations continue.

Currently, the United States has no federal paid sick or family leave benefit, an anomaly among developed countries. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, new parents are allowed time off for up to 12 weeks following the adoption, birth, or fostering of a child, but it is unpaid.

Germany has one of the most generous benefits. Mothers receive their full pay for 14 weeks and an additional 44 weeks of partial pay. In addition to the United States, the only other countries with no paid maternity leave are Nauru, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Suriname, and the Marshall Islands.

Javallana stated that a few other local cities have expressed major interest and hopes “for it to have a snowball effect for the betterment of our communities.”

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steve Glassman has already made a request from the city staff to learn more details. “We’re very serious about that because I think we have to set the tone, set the bar, set the example, for others to follow,” he said.

Javellana said she hopes the new plan will “attract and retain talent,” specifically those who may consider leaving for the private sector. “It makes us much more competitive,” she said.

There will not be any additional cost due to salaries already being budgeted, but colleagues would have to help pick up the slack in the meantime. And this doesn’t begin to address the moral issues when mothers return too early because they cannot afford to not have any income, she said.

“We’re seeing all these studies how we are behind the rest of the developed world,” she said. “We have to evolve as a workforce.”

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