Chicago’s 3,182 non-union employees would get up to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and up to four weeks of paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child, under a benefit package proposed this week by influential aldermen.
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Workforce Development and Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th), the Council’s president pro-tem, said it’s high time the city guarantee for top managers benefits that have become standard fare in private industry.
“There are really no advocates for the benefits of those individuals like those folks that are unionized. So every once in a while, you have to look at their benefit package so you continue…to attract young professionals looking at the benefit packages of progressive companies that have much better packages than we do,” said O’Connor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader.
“It helps us compete. It helps us to be a more family-friendly employer. Those extra weeks are good for the child’s health. It’s good for the health of the mother and the father.”
For years, City Hall had no maternity policy for its female employees. Instead, pregnant women were forced to store up unused sick days, vacation days and unpaid family leave, and then rush back to work.
When Emanuel took office, one of the first things he did was to order a review of employee leave policies with an eye toward offering paid maternity leave to the 10,767 women who were then on the city payroll.
“I don’t think we can afford not to. It’s time for Chicago, as it relates to its employment policy, to come into the 21st century,” the mayor said then. “That is the right policy, both for the employer and the employee.”
The resolution that O’Connor and Laurino introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting is more generous than the six weeks of maternity leave offered by the mayor.
It would allow “up to twelve weeks paid parental leave to a birth mother to recover from delivery of a child; up to four weeks paid parental leave for the birth of a child…to a spouse or domestic partner of the birth mother and up to four weeks paid parental leave for the adoption of a child.”
The policy would apply to “all non-union employees” eligible for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
“I don’t think it’s overly generous. It’s just a recognition that there are companies that are much more attractive to young professionals,” O’Connor said. “We want to compete for the best of the best.”
O’Connor said he expects the new policy to be “revenue-neutral” because, unlike snow plow drivers or 911 center call takers, city managers don’t need to be replaced.
Last fall, aldermen were told that Chicago’s 911 center was still struggling to get a handle on runaway overtime because 49 percent of call takers are on “some type of” absence tied to FMLA.
“There’s a difference between FMLA and having a baby,” O’Connor said. “It’s tough to fake having a baby.”