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Cleveland to offer city employees paid parental leave. More family leave benefits are in the works

 A newborn baby holds an adult's finger.
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The new policy will give 12 weeks' leave to new parents when a child joins the family by recent birth, adoption or guardianship.

Cleveland will now offer paid parental leave for city employees, giving new parents up to 12 weeks off after the birth, adoption or recent guardianship of a child.

The new policy brings Cleveland in line with many of its peer cities across the state, as well as top employment competitors, to attract and retain employees. Any city employee who has a new child, including a birth, adoption or new guardianship situation, is eligible, as well as those who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth. The benefit also includes up to 20 hours of paid leave for prenatal care appointments or pre-adoption appointments.

“There’s many ways we’re working to make our city work better for our residents, and a lot of that has been looking internally and figuring out procedurally what we need to do for our workers to be able to help our residents,” said Councilmember Charles Slife, who has worked to push a paid parental leave policy for years. “One place we’ve really fallen behind in is a lot of our benefits.”

Some family advocates wanted more, calling for additional paid family and medical leave allowances, like for caring for a sick parent.

“There’s still work to do,” said Abby Westbrook, executive director of SVP Cleveland, a gender equality group. She is part of a coalition of more than 40 organizations advocating for workers’ rights, racial justice and other issues that has lobbied the city for paid family and medical leave. “There’s more caregiving to provide than parental need."

Westbrook said even still, it’s a win for the city’s workers and families.

“We were absolutely delighted,” she said. “This is a really important milestone for the City of Cleveland and for its workforce. All working people should have access to paid leave, and paid parental leave is a great first step.”

Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin said he spoke with Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration, which he said assured him a more comprehensive family policy is coming.

“We have a lot of people in this city who are taking care of parents and have to take care of themselves,” Griffin said. “We want to make sure whatever policy we have in place is the best.”

A spokesperson from Bibb's office called the new policy "the most comprehensive policy in the State of Ohio," citing the allowances for paid leave for prenatal appointments, flexibility of intermittent leave and miscarriage allowances.

At the suggestion of Councilmember Stephanie Howse, the city will assemble a working group of representatives from Cleveland City Council, Bibb’s administration, human resources, the law department and labor experts to look at an expansion of benefits.

"The Administration committed to engage with other stakeholders in a working committee to evaluate the policy and provide recommendation(s) to Council by May," Bibb's spokesperson said. "We’ll continue to look for other ways to ensure we’re supporting our employees the best we can."

The city said they expect to seat the group by December with written recommendations for paid family medical leave proposed by May 2024.

“We’re really happy that council made such a public commitment on furthering this policy,” Westbrook said.

Corrected: July 14, 2023 at 3:14 PM EDT
Due to incorrect information provided by Cleveland City Council, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that parents with recent foster placements were eligible for 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
Updated: July 14, 2023 at 3:14 PM EDT
This article has been updated with comments from the mayor's office.
Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.