Miami Beach recently introduced paid parental leave for all city employees, following the lead of other local municipalities, including Doral and Miami-Dade County.
The initiative passed in Miami Beach at the end of October and went into effect on Nov. 2, according to Councilwoman Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who brought it before the city commission.
“It allows you to have six weeks of bonding time,” Gonzalez said. “When a parent has to abandon children so soon, it’s bad for both the parent and the child.”
Although the leave applies only to full-time city employers, Gonzalez said she hopes the private sector will follow suit.
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She said one of the goals of the ordinance was to stop women from leaving the workforce after having children.
“We need to empower women and encourage women to keep working,” Gonzalez said.
The program mandates six weeks of paid leave. The first two weeks are paid at 100 percent of the employee’s salary. The next two weeks are covered for 75 percent and the last two weeks at 50 percent.
Men and women can use the leave, and it also applies to adoptions and those who volunteer to foster children.
Miami Beach Assistant City Manager Eric Carpenter, whose wife, Courtney Carpenter, is due this month, will be one of the first employees to use the program.
“I’m extremely pleased,” Carpenter said. “I had no idea the city was contemplating it until about a month ago.”
He said he saved up his sick leave and vacation in anticipation of the birth before he knew the city was considering the program.
After the birth of his first child four years ago, Carpenter said he used his vacation time for that year to spend time with his child.
He gets 12 days of sick leave a year, he said, plus two weeks of vacation leave.
Although the initiative allows him to take six weeks of parental leave, Carpenter said he was planning on only using three weeks.
“I don’t want to abuse the system,” he said. “But I appreciate the ability to make the decision on my own.”
Shortly before Miami Beach approved the leave, Doral officials approved a similar ordinance back in August. In Doral, four weeks of leave are covered at 100 percent salary for city employees.
Doral Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez said she brought the ordinance before the city council because of her own experiences.
“I have two small children, and when I was pregnant with my first son, my employer at the time said to come back to work two weeks after giving birth,” Rodriguez said. “He said, ‘If you don’t come back, your job will be posted.’ ”
She said she went back to work because she couldn’t afford to lose her job and had to rely on her mother-in-law to help watch her son while she was at work.
Rodriguez said she found it to be a difficult adjustment.
“If I wasn’t in that situation, I would have taken more time,” she said.
Rodriguez said she wanted to make sure the same thing didn’t happen to other city employees.
“I have a heaven-sent opportunity to help other people,” she said. “Employees shouldn’t have to pick between going back to work or bonding with their children.”