The city council of Illinois’ capital of Springfield recently voted 6-4 in favor of setting aside funds to offer four weeks of paid maternity/paternity leave to all city employees. Approximately $300,000 was earmarked in the city’s fiscal year 2022 budget to cover the estimated expenses of providing paid family leave for the 1,300 city workers.
Historically, the city of Springfield has operated in accordance with the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guidelines, which require that covered employees receive up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to care for a newborn child within the first year of life. City workers were allowed to use accrued paid vacation or sick days during that time. Under the new plan, all employees — union and non-union — who have been employed for at least one year, will be eligible to take up to four weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave.
Springfield alderwoman Erin Conley proposed the policy change, calling it “an important addition to our terms of employment for the city.” While several council members objected on the grounds that the city budget could not afford the new budget line item, Conley stated that the policy’s potential to improve employee retention made it “an investment in building and maintaining our workforce, which is a value that we really can’t underestimate.” Of note, on average, only 31 of the city’s 1,300 employees take maternity or paternity leave each year. By comparison, the state of Illinois offers its employees up to 10 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave.
The National League of Cities (NLC) has previously advocated for cities to offer paid maternal or paternal leave, citing numerous benefits for children, mothers, and fathers. The NLC says benefits to children include decreased rates of low birth weight, fewer infant deaths, and increased rates of breastfeeding. For mothers, paid parental leave is said to correlate with a “reduced risk for experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression.” When it comes to new dads, “the length of leave offered is positively correlated with involvement with families.”
While the city must still vote on formally changing the policy, Springfield Major Jim Langfelder was clear that the city will move forward with the change. “Once you set this [money] aside, we’re going forward with it. I don’t see anybody taking the vote to set aside funds and not follow through with the vote,” he said.
While few cities nationwide have recognized the benefits of offering paid family leave to their employees thus far, Live Action News has previously reported on other trends in support of family wellbeing and stability, including paid bereavement leave for women and couples who experience a miscarriage. Interestingly, the Springfield City Council’s arguably pro-life move comes amidst broader efforts at the state level to overturn Illinois’ last meaningful pro-life abortion restriction, the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which requires that parents be notified within 24 hours of a scheduled abortion appointment for their minor daughters.
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