City teachers could see paid parental leave next year

A new city policy could pave the way for New York City’s teachers to get paid parental leave in 2016.

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will move to offer city employees six weeks of guaranteed paid parental leave. The city will extend the benefit to its non-unionized employees on Jan. 1, according to a statement, and the mayor is poised to “immediately enter talks” with the municipal unions that representing its other workers — including the 200,000 members of the city teachers union.

The proposal could improve a situation that can become a hardship for teachers: Currently, they get no paid leave after having or adopting a child unless they dip into their sick days.

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“Too many new parents face an impossible choice: taking care of their child or getting their paycheck,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement. “New York City is leading by example, putting us at the forefront of paid parental leave policies around the country.”

The United Federation of Teachers quickly praised the idea, saying it has long championed expanded parental leave policies and is pleased to find a “willing partner.”

“We look forward to negotiating with the administration for an appropriate way to extend and expand parental benefits for our members,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.

All U.S. employees have access to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave if they meet certain requirements under the Family and Medical Leave Act. But only a handful of states and cities offer paid parental leave, said Jamie Dolkas, director of women’s leadership at the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings.

All told, only 13 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid parental leave through their employers, she said.

The city’s proposed policy would allow parents of either gender to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off by combining the new leave with accrued sick days or vacation days. Officials said the change would not cost taxpayers, but it’s unclear whether or what the city would ask from unions in return.

The UFT and the city are still negotiating the details of a teacher evaluation system. De Blasio and the union signed nine-year contract deal in 2014.