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Editorial: City should offer parental leave

Updated: July 14, 2011 2:14AM

With the crash of the economy, we haven’t been hearing so much lately about the importance of family-friendly workplaces. So it’s nice to see, in a memo from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chief of staff, a suggestion that the city end its days as a backward employer that fails to offer parental leave.

“Importantly, the rules regarding the issuance of administrative leave must be reviewed, considering as well a maternity leave policy,” chief of staff Theresa Mintle wrote in a July 1 memo to Human Resources Commissioner Soo Choi.

We realize, of course, that this is just a memo, not a full-fledged policy recommendation. But we hope that city officials, when considering updating their policies, offer a parental leave to both mothers and fathers.

The federal government, recognizing the importance of allowing working parents to spend time with a newborn, enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act back in 1993. That law requires larger employers to allow parents to take up to 12 weeks off without putting their jobs at risk. But the time off is unpaid, which puts it out of reach for families living paycheck to paycheck.

Parental leave is in the best interests of the entire family, as well as society at large. As it is now, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman reported Wednesday, parents must patch together their own leave, using sick days, vacation and unpaid time off. But that means more stress on parents when they already are handling all the extra pressure they can manage.

Paid, job-protected leave gives parents the time they need to invest in their relationships with their young children. That helps newborns get off to a good start and adds stability to the family structure. Chicago would be wise to provide it.

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