Paid maternity leave an asset for Tampa

By Breanne Williams, COLUMNIST
On February 5, 2017

Tampa is now offering paid maternity leave to full-time employees. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Tampa’s City Hall has made a firm stance in support of the families that call the Bay home. Starting Sunday, full-time employees who have worked for the city for a year will be eligible for paid parental leave. 

The city used to follow federal Family and Medical Leave Act guidelines, which would essentially offer up to 12 weeks unpaid, but job protected, leave with health insurance for certain employees. 

The switch to paid leave is a necessary step for the city. Mayor Bob Buckhorn explained how the cost of the paid leave will end up benefiting the city as a whole. 

“Families should never be faced with a choice of whether to take those critical first weeks home with their child or put food on the table,” Buckhorn said. “Parental leave, child care and the like are not women’s issues. They’re economic issues, and the progress that we make on this front will directly impact our competitiveness on the global stage.”

Buckhorn echoed sentiments voiced by former President Barack Obama in his 2015 State of the Union Address where he said paid maternity leave would increase the percentage of women in the workforce and aid middle class families. 

There are advantages to offering a benefit that for some reason is still considered to be a luxury rather than a necessary requirement for full-time jobs. 

A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found women who took maternity leave ended up working 15-20 percent more hours during the second year of the child’s life than those who did not take leave. 

Tampa’s City Hall is not the first local government to offer paid maternity leave. St. Petersburg announced it would offer the benefit for up to six weeks paid leave back in 2014.   

Though not first in the race, Tampa is definitely leaps and bounds ahead of many other businesses, a fact Buckhorn highlighted in a video posted to his Facebook page where he encouraged other companies to follow his lead. 

Unfortunately, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation not to mandate paid leave for mothers. 

In fact, a large portion of the world has paid maternity policies. Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea are the only other countries that do not, according to the Huffington Post. 

Access to paid leave has been proven to offer benefits for both the parent and the child, and Tampa officials hope the move will aid in recruiting and keep employees and boost productivity, according to the Tampa Bay Times. 

“Tampa is competing with cities around the world,” Buckhorn said in a video posted on his Facebook. “Attracting and retaining the most talented requires providing a 21st century workplace for our families.”

Primary caregivers will receive eight weeks of paid leave after the arrival of a child. Spouses or partners of a primary caregiver who are also city-employed will be eligible for two weeks of paid leave.

It’s estimated the new policy will cost Tampa up to $290,000 a year, which will allow the 4,400 eligible workers to not have to choose between a paycheck or time with the newest addition to their family.

Critics may fear the cost is not worth the gain. 

However, thousands of workers will now be hesitant to leave for opportunities elsewhere because they know the city puts its employees first. Without a large turnaround, Tampa can focus on increasing productivity. 

The policy is worth the cost. 

Breanne Williams is a senior majoring in mass communications.

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