Marking a historic day in the city of Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council unanimously approved a paid parental leave policy for municipal employees.
Beginning May 14, 2022, eligible employees can request paid parental leave instead of relying only on saved vacation time or unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
“All of our employees, male and female, can benefit from what we did,” said Mayor Turner. “By offering paid, prenatal, parental, and infant wellness leaves, the City of Houston will be able to attract and retain top talent while supporting families and children. As a father, I understand the importance of bonding with a newborn, and I also listened to the stories of employees who have struggled to balance work with the birth or adoption of a child.”
The mayor extended his thanks to everyone who worked to create and pass the policy, including city council members, especially District C Abbie Kamin, who spearheaded the Houston Women’s Commission, and Chief of Staff Marvalette Hunter. Mayor Turner also thanked Human Resources Director Jane Cheeks, Finance Director Tantri Emo, City Attorney Arturo Michel, and their respective teams. Members of HOPE and SEIU also supported the new policy.
“I want to acknowledge Mayor Turner for his leadership and the work of so many,” said Councilmember Kamin. “Working women can be pregnant, be moms, and do anything. We have rights and needs, and we should not be afraid to seek accommodations. For far too long, there has been a stigma around the very real emotional, phycological, and physical challenges of pregnancy that carry far beyond a delivery room. Today we’re ensuring that no one has to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or their family.”
The new policy covers any person who has been with the City of Houston as a full-time employee for at least six continuous months before the initial use of the paid leaves for prenatal, parental and/or infant wellness. Part-time and temporary employees are not eligible.
“It is a great day in the city of Houston,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Dave Martin. “We should have done this many years ago. I congratulate the wave of women on the city council who rallied behind this issue and helped push us from the five-yard line and across the goal post. This is a wonderful policy that will benefit not just women but all parents working for the City of Houston for many years to come.”
The policy will apply equally to any parent regardless of gender and applies to couples, whether male, female, or LGBTQ+.
“These policies are good for the city, its employees, and their children,” said Beth Matusoff Merfish, chair of the Houston Women’s Commission. “Paid leave is linked to better health outcomes for parents and children and the retention of employees. In this case, what’s beneficial for the City of Houston and its employees and their children is also good for employers and families in the city of Houston. The Women’s Commission asks all employers in the city of Houston to follow this example and invest in its employees as the city has.”
“As we work to build a 21st-century workforce, we must remain competitive and responsive to working families’ needs. This policy, along with other progressive measures we are taking designed to capitalize on technology, creates a better work environment and paves the way for the city of Houston to lead the way in being a good place to work, stay and retire,” Mayor Turner said.