San Francisco Passes Fully Paid Parental Leave

Big news for any residents of that oh-so-exorbitantly-expensive City by the Bay ― as NBC News reported on Tuesday afternoon, San Francisco has passed fully paid parental leave, making it the first city in the United States to require businesses to do so. The new parental leave policy was reportedly passed by unanimous vote by the city's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, and it means that any new parents who work for companies with 20 or more employees will be entitled to at least six weeks of paid leave.

The vote has been met with some consternation from small businesses concerned over their ability to foot the bill, and coming hot on the heels of another pro-worker development in the Golden State — just last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law that will ramp up California's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.

This new six-week, fully paid leave mandate furthers what was already in effect within California, which along with New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states to offer partially paid parental leave, and it's an even bigger advancement from the national status quo, which is 12 weeks off, but unpaid. Needless to say, countless young families — especially trying to get by living in San Francisco, of all places — can't necessarily afford that kind of time off.

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Even beyond the confines of the Bay Area, parental leave in that United States has always seemed to get a negligent level of short shrift, compared to the emphasis that's placed on it in other, reasonably liberal democracies. And even some places that aren't particularly democratic, too — as it stands now, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't offer paid family leave, and one of just three nations overall.

The distinction between the use of "maternity" and "parental" is crucial, too. While maternity leave assumes the solely the woman who carried the child will want to take time off, parental leave eschews that gendered stereotype in favor of a more progressive, inclusive ideal — namely, that men should be able to take some time to care for and bond with their young families, too. Remember, sexist and patriarchal gender roles don't just hurt women by thrusting them into the role of full-time caretaker, they can also stunt men by pressuring them to stay at work, removed from the experience of nurturing their newborn children.

All in all, it's a welcome development, although only for a narrow slice of the U.S. population (San Francisco is home to just over 830,000 people). The only real question now is how well it goes over in execution, and whether more historically progressive cities will follow suit.