The county will add paid parental leave for employees, but will it be enough?

Monday, May 2, 2022 by Seth Smalley

Tomorrow, the Travis County Commissioners Court will take action on a paid parental leave policy for all workers in the county, but with several policies still to choose from, the scope and impact of how they decide remains unclear. .

While county staff will present a menu of options to the court, with varying benefit durations, eligibility requirements and costs, they are expected to recommend the six-week paid parental leave option that is “compatible with market conditions,” according to a publicly available PowerPoint presentation on the subject. (Commissioners asked county staff to review the matter in February.)

An alternative resolution on the same issue, introduced by County Judge Andy Brown, proposes eight weeks of PPL instead of six and shortens the eligibility requirement from 12 months of employment with the county to six.

“I have lived what it means to have a newborn baby at home and how exhausting, time-consuming, important and joyful this time is,” said Stephanie Gharakhanian, a county worker who advocated for the furlough. parental. austin monitor. “I also met other employees who had to leave the county because they just couldn’t make things work.”

Gharakhanian has one child and plans to have another. She has worked in the county for about six months and previously worked for a nonprofit that provided paid parental leave for its employees.

“Honestly, I don’t know how my family would have fared if we didn’t have a paycheck while I was on leave and were still paying rent or paying our mortgage or student loans,” Gharakhanian said. . “I’ve met people who had to take out really predatory title loans back when they were out of work (to care for a newborn) because they still have to pay their bills.”

The city of Houston already has a policy in place providing up to 12 weeks of paid leave “for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child”, and Harris County – which represents a much more conservative constituency that Travis County – is phasing in a 12-week policy by 2023 (which started with eight weeks in 2021). Harris County’s policy offers the benefits after just six months of employment, while Travis County’s draft policy appears to align more closely with the nearly decade-old Austin policy making the benefits available after 12 months of continuous employment, in accordance with Federal and Medical Family. Leave of Absence Act (FMLA) requirements. (Austin’s six-week paid parental leave policy has been in place since 2013, though that period could soon be extended by a proposed city council resolution Thursday.)

According to data analyzed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States was the only country, out of 41 studied, that lacked parental leave. Even 12-week leave policies in Houston and Harris County seem rare compared to the nearly 70% of countries surveyed that get 20 weeks or more.

Bob Libal, a former candidate for county commissioner, noted on Twitter that the lack of such a policy in Travis County is a “headache.” Another commenter, whose profile said he was a Houston firefighter, expressed shock that Houston implemented a 12-week policy ahead of Travis County.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

Editor’s Note: Andy Brown is a member of the board of directors of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the nonprofit parent association of the austin monitor.

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