By year’s end, St. Paul will become the second city in the state — and by far the largest one — to offer paid leave for city workers to care for newborn children.
The proposal, first touted by Mayor Chris Coleman in his August budget speech but formally introduced Wednesday, would provide four weeks of paid leave to birth mothers and two weeks paid leave to “non-birthing employee parents.” Employees who adopt children would also be given two weeks of paid leave.
Given that all seven St. Paul City Councilmembers are sponsoring the new benefit, it is expected to pass. Final vote could come next week, and would make St. Paul the second city in Minnesota to offer the benefit; Brooklyn Park approved a similar measure earlier this month.
In both cities, the change was described as the right thing to do — as well as something that’s become necessary to recruit and retain younger employees. Coleman said private-sector employers are starting to offer the benefit, and that he hopes it will give St. Paul an advantage in hiring.
“Our workforce is changing dramatically,” Coleman said. “And one of the ways that it is changing is a real demand from our young employees that when they do have a baby — whether they have a birth child or adopt a child — that they have the ability to get that child off to the right start.”
Companies that compete with cities for the best workers are also changing, Coleman said. “We can’t be Google,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is companies like Google are offering benefits such as we are going to be offering starting January 1st.”
Google offers birth mothers 18 to 22 weeks of paid leave. The few other cities that offer paid family leave — Chicago, San Francisco and Austin, Texas — offer between two and six weeks for birth mothers.
The program comes at a relatively low cost for the city, which currently has 2,850 employees: an estimated $200,000 a year. Coleman said he anticipates some increase in the price tag, but also said that if it does grow, it shows the program is working, that the city is attracting more young workers.
“There are a lot of retirements on the horizon in the city of St. Paul so we are going to have a younger workforce and we are going to have a struggle to compete for talent,” he said.
Health care equity: How do we get there?
Addressing the biggest barriers to meaningful reduction in health-care disparities
Oct. 21 breakfast event at Northrop sponsored by UCare
Councilmember Chris Tolbert said the emerging workforce is highly mobile and far less likely to pick a career, get a job and stay in one place until retirement, making it important for cities to offer benefits that help keep them. “This policy will help retain workers so workers don’t have to make the false choice between being with their child when they were young or working,” he said.
Coleman said he thinks the city has lost employees to employers with better benefits but has no data to show how big the problem is. “We don’t have numbers on who we might have lost, but I can tell you it is harder and harder to attract great talent to your city and to your workforce and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to attract them.”
Minneapolis does not offer paid family leave for childbirth but is looking into offering the benefit.
Standing behind Coleman at the Wednesday announcement was Councilmember Dai Thao, along with his wife Amee and their new-born son Justice. “As a father, today is a historic and exciting one,” Thao said. “I can only imagine how future fathers who work for the city of St. Paul will be filled with joy and relief. They no longer have to feel guilty, that they don’t have to choose between work and family during these first few precious weeks.”