Workers for the city of Chicago who plan to become parents will now have much more time off to spend with their new child.
As of Jan. 1, any city employee who’s worked for at least one year will receive 12 weeks of paid parental time off. In a country that has zero guaranteed paid parental leave, Chicago is one of a handful of cities expanding this benefit.
But why is paid time off important? And why is the U.S. lagging so far behind compared to other developed nations?
Darci Flynn, director of gender-based violence strategy and policy for the city of Chicago, says the COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on some major flaws in the labor market.
“When we saw the care infrastructure crumble, we saw women leave the labor market in droves” said Flynn.
City government is one of the largest employers in Chicago, but Flynn says only 30% of their workers are women.
“This policy aligns with the mayor’s work to address the inequities and create good quality jobs in our labor market,” said Flynn.
Providing paid time off to parents doesn’t just benefit the employee, it also benefits the employer, said Sharmili Majmudar, executive vice president of policy and organizational impact for the nonprofit Women Employed.
Majmudar says paid leave for parents pays huge dividends for everyone.
“We know that it reduces things like infant mortality, which is a significant issue in the United States and in Chicago. It reduces low birth weight, it increases breastfeeding, it can reduce postpartum depression,” said Majmudar.
Paying women for the time they spend at home with their baby can also help retain them at the workplace, she said.