MILWAUKEE — City of Milwaukee employees will be eligible for six weeks of paid parental leave starting this April.
Milwaukee’s Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson signed the measure into effect Thursday. It applies to more than just new moms. The paid six weeks is for fathers too, and adoptive and foster parents. Also, couples who experience a miscarriage, and those going through In Vitro fertilization or using a surrogate.
Local parents are hoping it sets a precedent.
"Businesses can take notice that the city is doing it, and should recognize it should be in place for their workers too,” said Christopher Graham. “It sets an important example.”
“My first, natural reaction to things like this is that it’s about time,” said Andrew Capelle.
Capelle and Graham are a married couple raising two adopted children.
For the birth of their first child five years ago, they only got about two weeks of paternity leave.
“Then I had to take my vacation that I banked for another two weeks,” Capelle said. “That’s just not enough time for new parents or the baby. Families come in all shapes and sizes these days, and that should be reflected in parental benefits."
They, like many others, say more progressive parental leave policies are long overdue.
According to a 2020 National Compensation Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 20 percent of all workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave. Eleven percent don’t even have access to unpaid leave. Among workers earning the bottom 25 percent of wages, only 9 percent have access to paid leave.
Only a handful of cities and states have passed laws mandating family or paternity leave. Milwaukee modeled much of its new parental leave policy after the one Madison has in place.
A few large, private companies in the Milwaukee area, like Baird and Northwestern Mutual, are leading the way, offering much more than six weeks paid. They say the benefit far outweighs the cost, when it comes to attracting and retaining employees and overall productivity.
“It’s absolutely true that when you have good parental leave, and you get what you need as an employee, you want to pay that forward in the work you do for the company,” said Capelle. “With my second child, I had much better paternal leave, and it made all the difference. I will never take that for granted. I want to do good work for my company because of benefits like that.”
City leaders say it’s hard to forecast the exact financial impact of this parental leave policy for Milwaukee. The city will be tracking it over the next year. Analyzing how many employees have children, and utilize the parental leave. Along with how many indirect costs come from it, like having to make up for the workers on parental leave, through back-filling or overtime.