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San Francisco Becomes First U.S. City to Require Fully Paid Parental Leave

Photograph by Twenty20

It's time to move to San Francisco, everyone. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to make the city the first in the U.S. to require businesses to provide fully paid parental leave. Yes, fully paid. And not just for a shabby few weeks, but six full weeks.

Supporters of the new measure argued that such a monumental change was needed, as many families currently can't afford to take any time off after a new baby is born or adopted. The law will take effect in 2017.

California's Family Medical Leave Act currently allows for workers to receive 55 percent of their salary for up to six weeks to bond with and care for a new child. San Francisco businesses with more than 20 employees will have to start kicking in funds to make up the rest of the workers' salaries.

Supervisor Scott Wiener tells NBC Bay Area, "We’re trying to balance the needs of businesses and of many families who are struggling to get by—especially low-income and working class families right now literally having to choose, 'Do I spend time bonding with my child or put food on the table?' And that is a choice no one should have to make."

To put it all into perspective, there are currently only three states in the United States that provide partially paid parental leave—California, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Just recently, New York approved a new policy that would allow for up to 12 weeks of partial pay. And that's just partial pay, people. Not full. So you're at home, struggling to tend to a newborn, recover from giving birth and also living off approximately half your usual income. Just awesome, right?

Globally, the U.S. (along with Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland) is one of only four countries that doesn't guarantee new parents any paid parental leave and the U.S. is the only industrialized nation to earn that distinction. And approximately half of our new mothers don't take any leave at all following the birth of their child, as they literally can't afford to.

One can only hope that San Francisco is just the start of some sweeping changes in parental leave laws in the U.S.

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