Rents and cost of living in the Bay Area are still on the rise, but San Francisco families will soon start seeing some relief: the city has a new family leave law that will come into effect in January of 2017.
The law will guarantee parents six weeks off with full pay while they’re home with a new child. That's a big departure from current policy. Right now, you get the same amount of time off, but with only 55% pay. That part is covered by State Disability Insurance; and when the new law takes effect, employers will cover the rest.
Second child, new city policy
Almost a year ago, Emily Yip and Chenyu Wang had a new baby son and a tricky financial situation. Wang was going through a stretch of temporary jobs, mostly contract gigs, and didn’t have any paid parental leave at all. Yip, who works as a family lawyer, missed the opportunity to take a couple weeks of leave because the information she got was so unclear and confusing that she didn’t realize what she was eligible for.
Things have changed since last time. Baby Ryan is now a chatty toddler with a passion for garbage trucks and singing “Happy Birthday” at perfectly random moments. Wang has a new, permanent job in San Francisco. Both parents are working full-time while Ryan is in daycare. And their second baby is on the way.
“I have a better sense of how to use or leverage my EDD [Employment Development Department] benefits, and also vacation benefits from work,” she says. “But I think I'll also be more ready to go back to work after three months. It'll be a relief!”
Like before, Yip has cobbled together vacation time and state benefits to get three months off, and she’ll receive partial pay for most of that time. The only difference this time around is that they will wait a bit for Wang to take his leave—they'll wait until January 1st when the city's new policy kicks in, so that he can have six weeks of fully paid bonding time.
San Francisco’s new Paid Parental Leave Ordinance gives eligible workers full pay while they’re home with a baby. The catch for Yip and Wang is that their baby is due this month, but the law doesn’t come into effect until next year. That leaves them with a two-month gap after Yip goes back to work. They have to figure out childcare for the newborn and daycare for their toddler for the time in-between. Luckily, Yip’s parents are retired and can help with the baby.
“There's no way we'd be able to afford double the child care expense on top of paying our mortgage and and putting food on the table,” says Yip.
Wang and Yip share baby duties as evenly as they can. Tonight is Wang’s turn to put Ryan to bed. He reads story after story until Ryan is ready for sleep. Wang says come July, bonding with his new child will be his top priority. He’s grateful for the new law—but still uneasy about taking advantage of it.
“Any time that I take off might be burdensome to my co-workers,” he says. “I try to figure out how to balance it as best I can so that they don't feel like I've completely abandoned them.”
Wang predicts that these conflicts between work and family will not end when he returns to work.
“Looking forward, there's a lot of things that are going to be difficult, like what do you do after the children are out of school at 3 o'clock but we have to come back early from work?”
The new law makes it easier for parents to be with a newborn, but it won’t solve the fundamental problem of childcare for many parents. Yip and Wang are among the lucky ones who are covered by the new law and enjoy family support. But they’re still looking for something that can help them balance work and family life in the years to come.