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Editorial: St. Petersburg's paid parental leave is smart investment

Published Dec. 19, 2014

For two decades, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act has given millions of expectant parents in the workforce the peace of mind that they can take time to care for a new baby or child and won't lose their job. But U.S. public policy still lags woefully behind the rest of the modern world when it comes to guaranteeing financial support for those parents and families. Starting next month in St. Petersburg, female or male city workers who have a baby, adopt or accept a foster child can take up to six weeks of paid leave to be at home with their family. That's good progress.

Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the change in the city's leave policy this week and said he anticipates no new costs associated with the plan, as it should cut down on turnover costs by increasing employee retention. He cited the Pew Research Center study that shows among 38 developed countries that provide for parental leave, the United States stands alone in failing to guarantee any pay during such leave — often forcing parents back to work because they need the income even if they aren't physically recovered from childbirth or before the rhythms of family life are well established.

Parents who have time, free of financial stress, to adjust to new responsibilities before returning to work are going to build stronger families and be better employees. That's a sound investment for St. Petersburg.