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Albuquerque starts paid parental leave for workers

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Mayor Tim Keller on Thursday signed a bill granting family paid parental leave to City of Albuquerque employees as City Councilor Pat Davis, left, Liat Trujillo, and her 7-week-old daughter Miriam Trujillo and Fathers New Mexico Executive Director Johnny Wilson, watch (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Albuquerque this week became the first city in New Mexico to extend paid parental leave benefits to its municipal workforce, a move advocates hope will start a trend.

City employees now qualify for up to 12 weeks of paid time off when they, their spouse or partner give birth, adopt or foster a child. Supporters say the new policy should help the city attract and keep good employees – thus reducing costs associated with replacing workers who might otherwise quit – while also allowing parents time to bond with their children without the pressure of losing income.

Up to now, employees with new children could take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or use their available paid leave such as vacation and sick days. An average of 142 workers had used FMLA parental leave annually in fiscal years 2016 through 2018.

“This will hopefully have a big impact (around the state),” said Lissa Knudsen, a health communications doctoral student at the University of New Mexico who worked on the legislation. “It sets the bar to say ‘This is the way to treat your employees.'”

Councilor Pat Davis introduced the bill, which the City Council passed 8-0 last week. Mayor Tim Keller signed it Thursday, saying Albuquerque was the first city in the state to implement such a policy.

“I think that’s a real pride thing for everyone in Albuquerque,” he said of the policy, which should take effect in about a week.

The city economist estimated the annual budget impact at $157,000 to $538,000, though that is primarily salary spending already built into a city budget that assumes workers will be paid for a full year. Essentially, the city has been saving money when employees took unpaid FMLA leave to be home with their new children, Davis said.

“I hope other employers in the city and around the state will look at this and say, ‘If Albuquerque can do this and keep their best and brightest we ought to look at it, too,’ ” he said.

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