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Los Angeles considers paid parental leave for city employees

Crossing guard Tony Abdalla ensures children's safety outside of Arroyo Vista Elementary School in South Pasadena.
Mae Ryan/KPCC
Crossing guard Tony Abdalla ensures children's safety outside of Arroyo Vista Elementary School in South Pasadena. Crossing guards are among the city employees L.A. needs to replace.

The city of Los Angeles is considering offering its own employees more paid time off when they have a baby.  

On Tuesday, the City Council will vote on instructing city staff to study these three aspects of paid parental leave:

  • how much time off city employees currently take when a child is born
  • how much it costs the city when parents leave its workforce after having a child
  • the feasibility of offering city employees four weeks paid parental leave for bonding purposes.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who along with councilwoman Nury Martinez introduced the motion, said the city will likely need to hire 5000 new employees over the next few years and needs better incentives to attract them.  

"If we want to compete for the best talent to be the people who provide services to our constituents, we're going to have to provide these sorts of benefits," Krekorian said. 

The motion points out that 50 percent of the employees in some city departments are eligible for retirement, and that to replace them, L.A. will compete with private sector employers.  

"In many cases, the city will not offer the most competitive salaries or the best 'perks' to compete with the private sector, but it can provide a significant benefit for new parents or those planning a family," Krekorian and Martinez write in the motion. They add that the oncoming retirements present an opportunity to increase the number of women working for the city.

Economist Kevin Klowden of the Milken Insitute says the timing of all the retirements is problematic, as younger workers throughout the city are growing concerned about the high cost of living. 

"If you look at Los Angeles as a whole, not just the public sector, there's been real issues with the middle class, particularly the young who want to start families, moving out," Klowden said. "If you want to retain the young people, you need to be able to step in and offer them something that makes the job offers more appealing now.  Family leave is a great way of doing it." 

California state law allows workers to take six weeks off to bond with a newborn and collect 55 percent of their wages in disability pay. It's part of a paid family leave program that allows people to take time off to care for sick loved ones. A bill to significantly expand that benefit is working its way through the legislature in Sacramento.

The bill was authored by Assembly member Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles. Early versions proposed raising the wage replacement rate to 60 percent or even higher for the lowest income earners and extending the time off period to eight weeks. But lawmakers are still working out the details.  

"Paid family leave is a lifeline for California’s working families, and my bill expands its access by increasing the wage replacement rate to ensure workers at all income levels can utilize the very program they are paying into," Gomez wrote in an email to KPCC.