San Francisco is first city to require fully-paid parental leave

The U.S. ranks last on this important issue
The U.S. ranks last on this important issue

San Francisco has become the first city to pass a law guaranteeing new parents time off that's fully-paid pay to care for a new child.

The city board of supervisors, its city council, unanimously passed a measure Tuesday night granting new parents six weeks of paid leave.

California already has a state insurance program that pays workers 55% of their normal wages to take time off after the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick family member. The San Francisco law requires that employers make up the balance of the employee's pay so that that they earn 100% of their normal wages. Lost pay is the major reason that many employees do not take advantage of the state's paid-time off policy, according to the legislation.

Additionally, the state program doesn't guarantee an employee the right to their old job when they return from leave, but the San Francisco measure makes it illegal to fire an employee after taking parental leave. The San Francisco law takes effect Jan. 1, 2017 for companies with 50 or more employees.

It will be phased in for smaller employers so that by Jan. 1, 2018 it will cover all employers with at least 20 workers. Employers with fewer than 20 employees will be exempt from the law.

Related: Paid family leave - How the issue just got some New York-size momentum

This week New York passed what is being hailed as the most comprehensive and generous paid family leave state law, guaranteeing employees up to 12 weeks off to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. The New York law, which won't go into full effect until 2021, pays employees up to 67% of their salary and is funded by a state insurance fund, like the California program.

Many companies, particularly in the tech sector, are offering more generous parental leave programs to attract employees. Ebay and Spotify offer six months of fully-paid parental leave, and Netflix (NFLX, Tech30) has announced an unlimited parental leave for the first year after the birth of a child.

But efforts to pass federal paid parental leave programs have been unsuccessful.

An earlier version of this story had the wrong effective date for smaller employers

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