HOUSTON — Houston’s first-ever paid parental leave policy passed in a unanimous vote by City Council on Wednesday.
Until now, City of Houston employees who became new parents had to use vacation or sick time or take off unpaid days.
The new policy provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for 22,000 city employees after a birth, adoption or foster placement. It covers full-time employees on the job for at least six months and is set to go into effect in May.
Council Member Abbie Kamin, who represents District C, gave birth in 2021 after being pregnant during the first year of the pandemic.
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“I don’t qualify for FMLA because City Council employees are technically part-time, but I was saying, ‘How can a city employee go through this?’” recalled Kamin.
She helped create the city’s Women’s Commission, which recommended the paid parental leave policy for city employees.
“This came about not just from my story but from countless other women I’ve spoken to, we’ve interviewed at every level at the city,” said Kamin.
Council will also consider pre-and post-natal wellness leave, along with infant wellness leave.
“This should have been done long ago,” Kamin told us recently. “It’s time, and I am so thankful that we have the opportunity to do this.”
When the policy was proposed earlier this month, Mayor Sylvester Turner said it would help attract employees.
“By offering paid parental leave, the City of Houston will be able to attract and retain top talent while supporting families and children," the mayor said in a statement.
"The City is able to offer these new benefits with no budgetary impact to the City as the hours approved under this ordinance are already included in the annual budgeted personnel costs," a document the mayor's office sent to KHOU 11 reads.
Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin all have similar policies.
“Houston is catching up,” said Elizabeth Gregory, Director of the University of Houston’s Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies program.
Gregory also serves on Houston’s Women’s Commission.
“I think as a society, our attitude for a long time has been, ‘It’s your family, it’s your problem,’” said Gregory. “We’re starting to realize that that attitude is not sufficient, and it doesn’t really serve us well as a society.”