National News

For First Time, New York City Teachers Will Get Paid Parental Leave

Posted June 20, 2018 6:39 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — New York City public schoolteachers will get paid parental leave beginning this fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday, replacing a policy that required new parents to choose between taking care of a baby and drawing a salary.

Under the current policy, teachers who gave birth could use accrued sick time to cobble together a maternity leave. But teachers earn 10 sick days a year, so creating a three-month leave would require working for about six years without having been sick — or having a child who had to stay home from school because of an illness.

Sick days could be borrowed in advance, but they would have to be repaid, a process that could take years. The Family and Medical Leave Act protects a worker’s job for 12 weeks, but offers no compensation.

Teachers who adopted, for example, or had a child through a surrogate, as well as fathers had to take unpaid leave.

The new policy, which will go into effect in September, will provide six weeks of paid parental at full salary to all parents. Teachers who give birth will be able to use sick time, as well, for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a vaginal delivery and 14 weeks of leave for a cesarean section.

De Blasio announced the agreement at City Hall, alongside teachers and elected officials. Some held babies or toddlers in their arms.

“The most important job for all of us who become parents is that of mom or dad,” de Blasio said. “That’s why paid parental leave makes so much sense. It’s always made sense but it makes even more sense in the 21st century when people are working so hard, such long hours, and struggling to make ends meet. It’s a fundamental matter of fairness.”

The deal comes after pressure from the United Federation of Teachers, a group that has been a political ally of de Blasio and has a membership that is 77 percent female. The policy applies to the union’s 120,000 members, which include social workers, guidance counselors and teachers. A petition by members demanding that the union negotiate for paid leave got tens of thousands of signatures last year.

The city said it would contribute $51 million a year to the union to help fund the new benefit, and estimated that 4,000 people a year would take the leave. To help cover the cost, the city will extend the union’s contract by 2 1/2 months, which would delay raises for its employees.

The news conference on Wednesday began with a short statement from a pregnant kindergarten special education teacher at Public School 204 in Brooklyn, Jennifer DiBerardino, a single mother who praised the change. “This is amazing,” said DiBerardino, who is due in November. “I will get to spend time at home with my son.”

The teachers’ union president, Michael Mulgrew, said the announcement marked “a significant day” in the history of the union and recalled a time when a teacher who got pregnant would have been fired.

“We take great pride in taking care of children,” Mulgrew said. “All we asked for was to be treated fairly when members of our own union bring children into their families. And it’s been a long fight.”

Eric Rubin-Perez, a school counselor at the John F. Kennedy Jr. school in Queens, said that when he and his husband had a daughter in 2014, he had been working for 10 years and accrued a significant amount of sick time that he assumed he could take for paternity leave. He said he was shocked to learn he could not use any of it. He took 11 weeks off to care for his daughter, without pay.

“I just kept thinking ‘how unfair this is, how unfair this is,'” he recalled.

He and his husband are hoping to have another child, he said, and now, he will not be faced with the same choice again. “Today,” he said, “is a good day.”