Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Crowley Signs Paid Parental Leave Bill

Bill expected to have small fiscal impact and big payoff for families and social equity.

By - Apr 12th, 2022 05:46 pm

County Executive holds paid parental leave legislation. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley signed legislation on Tuesday creating a paid parental leave policy for county employees after a birth or an adoption.

The resolution was authored by Milwaukee County Supervisors Liz Sumner and Ryan Clancy. It provides eight weeks paid leave annually to county employees working at least 20 hours per week for the birth of a child, or for families that have taken in a child through adoption, fostering, guardianship or acting as a parent.

The new policy also provides three weeks paid leave following a miscarriage or stillbirth, and two more weeks if there are complications with the pregnancy or delivery that cause serious health conditions or incapacity.

The policy does not have a direct impact on the county budget, according to a fiscal estimate from the Office of the Milwaukee County Comptroller. Except, in so far as employees used to go unpaid for parental leave and those hours translated to budget savings for the county. Overtime may be needed to backfill positions, but it’s impossible to predict where this would occur, “Therefore, additional overtime expenses incurred beyond budget because of the parental leave program would need to be absorbed within a department’s personnel budget,” the fiscal note said.

The legislation was signed at a playground in Estabrook Park this afternoon in Sumner’s supervisory district.

During the press conference, Sumner said, the parental leave policy “is an investment in the county’s 4,000 plus workers.”

“It’s a win for parents, who can cherish the early days of their children’s lives and take some time to prepare for returning to work. It’s a win for kids who benefit developmentally from parents being home during their first few months of life, or after an adoption. And, of course, it’s a win for the county, because we can count on happier and healthier employees,” Sumner said.

Sumner echoed Crowley’s characterization of the policy as “equity in action.” When considering poor birth outcomes or parents unable to “make the most of those first critical development stages,” Crowley said, “we see how Black and brown parents and families are impacted disproportionately.”

“By providing eligible employees with eight weeks of paid leave after a birth or an adoption of a child under the age of five, we’re doing our part to provide workplace flexibility and bridge the gap in health disparities created by discriminatory policies of our past,” he said.

Supervisor Clancy said “I’m here as a county supervisor and as a father who had the unfortunately rare privilege of being able to spend two months with two of my children after they were born. I can say that’s a profoundly moving and important time, both in my life as a parent and, I hope, for my children as well.”

Christina Thor, Wisconsin State Director for 9to5, noted that taking parental leave is not simply time away from work, or a vacation.”When employees take parental leave, they need to consider finances, job security, their newborn, medical expenses, self care and so much more.”

“When women are forced to choose between family and work,” Thor said, “our economy suffers statewide, nationally and locally.”

Sumner and Clancy’s legislation sailed through the board, receiving unanimous support. When she introduced the legislation, she noted that she had buy-in from many parts of county government and support in crafting the policy, including Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson, the comptroller’s office, the Office of Corporation Counsel and the county executive.

She also noted that Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, a former county supervisor, was a local leader on policies like this, recently passing a paid parental leave policy for city employees.

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