St. Paul to vote on maternity leave

The U.S. is far behind most developed countries’ parental leave pay.

The St. Paul City Council is expected to pass a measure approving paid parental leave for all city employees. The policy, which would take effect New Year’s Day, would provide four weeks of fully paid maternity leave and two weeks of paid leave for the second parent. The program would cost about $200,000 in its first year.

As a strategy to attract younger employees, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman formally introduced the proposal last week. Coleman told MinnPost that there’s “a real demand from our young employees that when they do have a baby … they have the ability to get the child off to the right start.”

While a handful of other American cities offer paid leave, the national standard, set by the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, is to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

The United States’ system of unpaid leave is widely considered the poorest of any developed nation. Iceland offers 13 weeks of leave, the shortest period after the United States — but even Iceland’s leave is fully paid. Many European and Asian countries offer several months to a full year of leave with at least partial pay.

The lack of paid parental leave for most employees in the U.S. is a serious lapse in workplace benefits. We commend St. Paul for working to correct the problem and offering benefits that begin to bring a small part of the U.S. in line with the rest of the developed world.