Chico proposes more generous parental leave policy for city workers

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Mayoral candidate Gery Chico wants City Hall to do a better job supporting working parents — even if it means saddling beleaguered Chicago taxpayers with an added burden.

As the city faces a $1 billion spike in pension payments, and twice that much to replace lead service lines that carry water from the street to individual homes, Chico wants the City Council to extend parental leave offered to all city employees.

That includes not only pregnant mothers giving birth, but fathers, partners and adopting parents.

For years, City Hall had no maternity policy for female employees. Instead, pregnant women had to store up unused sick days, vacation days and unpaid family leave, then rush back to work.

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, one of the first things he did was order a review of employee leave policies with an eye toward offering paid maternity leave to the 10,767 women then on the city payroll.

Emanuel’s current policy is: six weeks of paid leave for women giving birth by cesarean; four weeks for natural birth mothers and two weeks for fathers and adopting parents.

Chico’s suggested change is more generous: 12 weeks of paid leave to all new parents — including moms, dads and adopting couples; and 16 weeks to women having cesarean sections.

Chico, former chief of staff under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, said he decided to champion the policy change after being approached by a city employee who had recently adopted a child and had to rush back to work after just two weeks of paid leave.

“Parents need time to bond with their children. … There is just no way to connect with a child in such a short period of time,” Chico was quoted as saying in a press release.

“It’s up to us as city leaders to not only help our employees be the best parents possible but also create a better workplace.”

Chico could not be reached for comment on the cost of the more generous benefit or how he would pay for it.

His press release notes that New York City offers its employees six paid weeks for maternity, paternity and adoption. It also includes a list of private sector companies whose parental leave policies put Chicago to shame.

They include: Netflix (52 weeks); Microsoft and Airbnb (22 weeks); Twitter and Amazon (20 weeks); Apple (18 weeks); Uber (17 weeks); WeWork (12 weeks) and Hewlett-Packard (10 weeks.)

Chico is not the first to suggest that City Hall be more generous with working parents.

In October 2017, two influential aldermen proposed that Chicago’s 3,182 non-union employees get up to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and up to four weeks of paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

The proposal from Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the Emanuel floor leader now chairing the City Council’s Finance Committee, and Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th), the Council’s president pro-tem, was never approved.