New York City public schoolteachers will get paid parental leave beginning this fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday, replacing a policy that required new parents to choose between taking care of a baby and drawing a salary, the New York Times reports.
Teachers who gave birth could use accrued sick time to cobble together a maternity leave with the policy that’s in place right now. The problem is that teachers earn 10 sick days a year, so creating a three-month leave would require working for about six years without getting sick or missing work for any other reasons like caring for a sick child who had to stay home from school.
Sick days could be borrowed in advance, but they would have to be repaid, a process that could take years. The Family and Medical Leave Act protects a worker’s job for 12 weeks, but offers no compensation, The New York Times reports.
Examples of times when parents had to take leave include teachers who adopted or had a child through a surrogate.
The new policy will kick in this September and will provide six weeks of paid parental at full salary to all parents. Teachers who give birth will be able to use sick time for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a vaginal delivery and 14 weeks of leave for a cesarean section, The New York Times reports.
The mayor announced the agreement at City Hall, flanked by teachers who are parents, with some even holding babies.
“The most important job for all of us who become parents is that of mom or dad,” de Blasio said. “That’s why paid parental leave makes so much sense. It’s always made sense but it makes even more sense in the 21st century when people are working so hard, such long hours, and struggling to make ends meet. It’s a fundamental matter of fairness,” the mayor said.
The contract covers about 120,000 workers, which includes 79,000 teachers, plus United Federation of Teachers-represented school nurses, therapists, guidance counselors, secretaries and others, according to NBC New York.
Budget watchdogs worried in the past, saying that giving teachers paid leave would cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars yea and could open the floodgates for other unions to ask for the same.
De Blasio said any change to the union’s contract would have to be negotiated, but the city still agreed to pay for the leave by giving $51 million a year to the union’s welfare fund, and the union agreed to extend its current contract by 10 and a half weeks, Spectrum 1 reports. The mayor said there would be no net cost to taxpayers.
“It’s been a long fight,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said at the announcement. Mulgrew said that “today I get to stand here and say that wrong has finally been righted and this is the last school year that a UFT member will ever have to face the difficult choices they have done in the past.”