JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sharing his new plan first with News4Jax, Jacksonville's mayor is proposing that all city employees -- both men and women -- receive paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child.
The Family Medical Leave Act entitles you to take up to 12 weeks of leave after the birth of a baby -- depending on your doctor's orders -- and guarantees you a position when you return. But, the federal law does not require your employer to pay you while you are out.
Currently, city employees use whatever sick leave and vacation time they have accrued in order to get paid during their time at home with their new child. That could mean a period of time without a paycheck. Mayor Lenny Curry wants to change that, and remove the personal financial burden.
Mayor Curry and his wife Molly spoke exclusively to News4Jax about the details of the new plan to offer six weeks of paid parental leave to everyone who works for the city of Jacksonville -- including police, fire and rescue personnel, and employees of independent city agencies.
"I hope by demonstrating our leadership in this role as a city, that others will follow," said Mayor Curry. "Just the idea of a family not having to worry about their financial stress and getting back to work when they've got a newborn at home, it's important."
After we asked during our interview if the mayor's plan included paid leave for fathers, his staff later confirmed it would.
"We're setting an example, starting a conversation," the mayor added. "Since I've been in office, I've used my role as the mayor of Jacksonville to do things that I would like to see the private sector follow. And, many companies are already doing this."
Seven local governments in Florida are already offering paid leave for parents. St. Petersburg started in 2015, and then in 2016, Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, West Palm Beach, Doral, and Wellington got on board. Tampa joined the list this year.
And, Mayor Curry wanted to make it clear his paid parental leave proposal won't cost taxpayers any additional money. He explained, it is actually already paid for.
"Right now, under current federal law, folks get time off and they take leave. So, this will simply accrue in their leave. And, if they haven't used it, they'll get paid out when they leave, so this is part of the city's budget," he said.
"So it's nothing? There's no extra here? You don't have to talk about any kind of a tax or anything?" News4Jax asked the mayor.
"No additional tax, no," Curry said. "This is just something that we're doing for families."
Spokesmen for the city's two largest unions supported the move.
"I have always told people that work with me 'family first always. There is nothing more important,' said Steve Zona, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. "I applaud Mayor Curry for his leadership on this issue and willingness to take a bold step in that direction."
Jacksonville Association of Firefighters President Randy Wyse, sent a statement:
This would be a great help to a firefighters family in a stressful time of having a newborn being added to the family. Most Firefighters already work at least 56 hours a week and are separated from their families several days in a row. This type of leave would help relieve a lot of stress throughout the entire family when it is needed most. It is very difficult for firefighters to get leave approved so this new plan would make it easier to help bring a newborn home."
Sitting side-by side, Jacksonville's First Family told News4Jax they support this six weeks of paid parental leave because of what they experienced themselves when they started their family.
"When I was with PricewaterhouseCoopers, I had two of my kids while I was working," explained Molly Curry. "They offered six weeks of paid leave and it was great. It was something that was very valuable to both of us. For me to be able to stay home with the kid, with the baby, for six weeks afterward and not have to rush right back to work or take time off or have to not get paid, it was great for us and for our family."
The Currys, who have three children of their own, want to make sure city employees know, they are putting families first.
"We just want to make sure that you are home, taking care of your newborn, or a child you have adopted, without having to worry about the financial stress," Curry said.
"And whether it be your first baby or your third or fourth baby, I think each one needs special attention of the mom being home with the baby right after they're born and just having the bonding time to just be a mom, you know, and not have to worry about work for a couple of weeks," added Molly. "It's a great opportunity."
Curry said that collective bargaining with union members on his paid parental leave proposal would begin after Oct. 1. He said he will have separate talks with the city's independent agencies and take his plan to Jacksonville City Council.