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City Council approves parental leave legislation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New parents who work for the city of Albuquerque may soon qualify for months of paid time off to spend with their kids.

The City Council on Monday approved revising the personnel policy to grant city employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave when they, their spouse or domestic partner have a baby, or become adoptive or foster parents.

The parental leave legislation, sponsored by Councilor Pat Davis, will take effect in 10 days unless vetoed by Mayor Tim Keller. But Keller’s administration voiced support for the plan Monday.

“We believe strongly that paid parental and sick leave is key to leveling the playing field for working families,” Keller spokeswoman Alicia Manzano said in a written statement late Monday.

A budget analysis estimates the annual costs anywhere from $157,000 to $538,000. That includes about $50,000-$75,000 the city would spend on overtime or temporary workers to cover for those on leave. But the bulk of the cost is unrealized salary savings the city has been achieving when employees took parental leave without pay.

Currently, employees with new children can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or use other time off, such as accrued vacation or sick days.

“We were essentially saving money on the backs of our employees by forcing them to take unpaid leave when they choose to have a child,” Davis said of those who have used FMLA in the past. “We can do better and, quite frankly, we can afford it.”

Bernalillo County doesn’t offer paid parental leave for its employees, according to a county spokeswoman.

“We only do FMLA,” said spokeswoman Tiffany Chamblee.

City economist Christine Boerner said some studies have shown that workers are more likely to return to a job that provides paid parental leave than one that did not, meaning the city could avoid some expenses associated with possible personnel turnover.

To qualify for paid parental leave, employees must have worked for the city at least a year. They must use the leave within six months of the birth or adoption.

If both parents work for the city, each can take 12 weeks.

Pamelya Herndon, CEO of the KWH Law Center for Social Justice and Change, advocated for the bill on Monday, saying it could help boost New Mexico’s dismal child well-being rankings.

It’s “giving parents a chance to bond with their children; it lets employees feel comfort in knowing they are present for their children when their children need them most,” she said. “And it gives a peace of mind to employees knowing they have job security when they and their family need that job security the most.”

Davis credited his policy analyst, Sean Foran, who has a young child, for writing the legislation. The councilor said the policy can help the city attract and keep younger workers who seek such benefits.

“We are competing with other, more flexible workplaces now for a new generation of employees who want something different,” he said. “They want and value community and family; they look for employers that recognize and reward those values.”