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County board backs paid parental leave for workers

The Cook County board has backed an effort championed by Comm. John Fritchey to provide paid parental leave for county employees.

County commissioners today passed a resolution urging Board President Toni Preckwinkle to change the county’s parental leave policy to allow non-union workers to receive paid leave.

Cook County does not currently provide employees with paid parental leave. Instead, it suggests that workers who are expecting use accrued sick and vacation days, short-term disability through the county’s pension fund, or unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Under short-term disability, employees can take off for up to six weeks after a normal pregnancy and eight weeks following a C-section. They are not paid for the first 30 days, however, and only receive half of their salary for the remaining time they are not working.

“I think [our current policy] is an antiquated notion and it’s one that’s not in keeping with where we want to be as policy setters, where we want to be as employers, and the nature of attracting and retaining qualified employees,” Fritchey said.

Comm. Bridget Gainer noted her support of the resolution, and she, along with Commissioners Edwin Reyes (D-Chicago), Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood), and Deborah Sims (D-Chicago) signed on as cosponsors of the legislation.

Preckwinkle said she approves of the idea but wants to work out any kinks that might arise from a change in the policy.

“We support the concept, and we’re trying to analyze the potential fiscal impact,” she said following Wednesday’s board meeting. “Since I’ve taken office, I’ve encouraged a larger conversation about time and attendance issues, so this proposal has to be evaluated in that context, and also we need to look at the county’s overall benefits package.”

Chicago changed its parental leave policy in 2011 to allow paid leave for non-union workers. Employees are now offered up to four weeks paid leave following a non-surgical delivery and as much as six weeks after a C-section.

“I think that the policy that Mayor Emanuel put in place shortly after taking office is a good blue print – whether we adopt one that is like that or similar to that remains to be seen,” Fritchey said last week.


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