San Francisco's Paid Family Leave Law: A Bridge To The Rest Of The Country?

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San Francisco

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April 12, 2024 at 9:27PM UTC
Yesterday, the city of San Francisco unanimously voted to pass the nation’s most generous family paid leave law. Beginning in 2017, all San Francisco employees of businesses with at least 50 employees will have access to 6 weeks of fully paid time-off for the purposes of care-taking for a newborn child, a newly adopted child, or a seriously ill family member.

Parents of both genders, as well as same-sex couples and adoptive parents are all eligible to receive this benefit. We’ve pulled together a summary of the most important facts and details we could find about the new city ordinance, below:

How will this parental leave be funded and how much will it cost?

This measure will be funded by a weekly payroll tax levied on San Francisco employees. San Francisco’s Office of Economic Analysis estimated that the ordinance could cost San Francisco businesses over $32 million per year if both men and women took advantage of the benefit.

To be clear, the San Francisco law requires employers fill the pay gap between what California state law already covers in terms of paid parental leave. California’s short-term disability insurance scheme pays for 55% of an employee’s time off after the birth or adoption of a child, or for care-taking of a sick family member (up to a cap, which has been set in 2016 to be $1,129).

What other protections does the law provide?

California’s state law doesn’t guarantee that the employer maintain an employee’s old job after they return from parental leave whereas the San Francisco provision makes it illegal to fire an employee after they return from their parental leave.

Eligibility and Details

To be eligible for the benefit, employees must have worked for an employer for at least 180 days for at least 8 hours per week, and spend at least 40% of their work week within the San Francisco city boundaries. As reported by ABC news, businesses will follow a phased-in schedule for compliance based on their size. Businesses with 50 employees will have to abide by the new rules in January 2017, while employers with 35-49 employees have until July 2017 and employers with between 20-34 employers will have to implement the law in 2018.

If the employee leaves within 90 days of returning from leave, they will have to pay back the benefit they received and employees must use all accrued vacation before receiving paid leave.

Next Steps

Although the San Francisco ordinance has not yet worked their way through the entire law-making process, legislators have described the rest of the process as a “formality” to the New York Times.

There’s certainly good reason for celebration on the California peninsula, and the city may be leading a trend that the rest of the country may begin embracing. Indeed, last week, New York State passed it’s own paid family leave law, which will become effective in 2018. As far as national law-making is concerned, however, some are not so sanguine. Scott Weiner, the legislator who introduced the proposal in San Francisco said, “
Whether it’s paid parental leave, infrastructure investment, minimum wage, paid sick leave or addressing carbon emissions, we know the states have to act.”


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