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D.C. Government Workers Get Eight Weeks Of Paid Family Leave

Starting tomorrow, D.C. government employees will be eligible for up to eight weeks of paid family leave.
Christian Glatz: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24092454@N00/12582433/
Starting tomorrow, D.C. government employees will be eligible for up to eight weeks of paid family leave.

Starting on Wednesday, the D.C. government's 30,000 employees will enjoy a perk few of their counterparts in the private sector get: paid family leave.

Mayor Vincent Gray announced on Tuesday that all of the city's workers would receive up to eight weeks of paid family leave that can be used to care for a newborn or adopted child or to attend to a sick family member.

“I am very proud that the District government is leading the way by providing new parents a chance to bond with their children, as well as offering family members the ability to care for loved ones without worrying about leave time or whether they will have to forego paychecks," said Gray in a statement.

The program is expected to cost over $4 million per year, but according to Doxie McCoy, Gray's spokeswoman, the costs of the leave will be absorbed by each agency and that no extra funding is needed for it. Wednesday marks the first day of the 2015 fiscal year.

Gray first announced the new policy during his State of the District address in March. "I was shocked and, frankly, somewhat embarrassed to learn that the District government didn’t offer paid maternity leave," he said in the speech. "In fact, our current policy forces new mothers to go on what is called 'short-term disability' to get just a portion of their salary after having a child."

That same month, D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) introduced legislation that would mandate six weeks of paid leave, which was incorporated into the 2015 budget. During later negotiations over the budget, two weeks were added for a total of eight weeks of paid leave, though the leave is limited to 30 weeks per employee over their time with the government.

Compared to Maryland and Virginia, D.C. ranks high on family-friendly policies. While Maryland and Virginia do not offer extensions of the Family and Medical Leave Act — which allows an employee to keep their job while on family leave — beyond the 12 weeks required, D.C. offers up to 16 weeks. That law, though, does not require that employees be paid.

In his February speech, Gray also challenged the federal government and the city's private employers to similarly offer paid family leave. According to Gray's office, only 16 percent of state and local governments and 12 percent of private employers offer it.

"I challenge the federal government and the District’s private employers to do what I did — go review your own parental-leave policy and make sure it is at least as generous as what the District government is going to do for our employees. In a city like ours, where employers are competing for the best talent and where we pride ourselves on being progressive, it’s just the right thing to do," he said.

Gray also announced that D.C. was one of four jurisdictions in the country to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to study family leave policies. The D.C. Department of Employment Services will receive $96,281 to study the feasibility of extending family leave to private employers in the city.

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