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Chicago to allow paid maternity leave

Updated: November 9, 2011 12:54PM



Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday offered four to six weeks of paid maternity leave to pregnant city employees — even as he restricts a costly policy that has allowed workers to stockpile many vacation days and cash them out upon retirement.

Under former Mayor Richard Daley, the city did not offer paid maternity leave.

That has forced pregnant women to cobble together sick days, vacation days and unpaid family leave and to return to work before they’re ready.

On Wednesday, Emanuel changed that.

Pregnant city workers will now be offered four weeks of paid maternity leave after routine vaginal births and six weeks off after C-sections.

Their spouses or partners on the city payroll will get one week off with pay. Adoptive parents will get two weeks.

The new policy is confined to nonunion employees. For pregnant women who belong to unions, the change will have to wait until new contracts are negotiated.

The new policy was crafted by Human Resources Commissioner Soo Choi, who is pregnant and stands to benefit.

“What I’m trying to do as mayor is bring the city into the 21st century,” Emanuel said. “... We’re now gonna have a family and medical leave policy that makes the city of Chicago, I don’t want to say just competitive, but equal to what’s going on in the private sector.

“It’s gonna help us recruit and maintain a work force,” he said. “.... It’s not only a good business practice, but it’s in line with who we are. ... It’s the right thing to do for your employees.”

The crackdown on vacation time would allow city employees to carry over no more than five vacation days from year to year, sharply reducing the number of unused days that could be cashed out upon retirement.

Currently, a long-term employee could retire at the end of 2012 with a check for up to 75 days of unused vacation. The new policy would limit that same employee next year to 50 unused vacation days and to a maximum of 30 unused days as of 2013.

The Sun-Times reported that Daley’s chief of staff, Ray Orozco, walked out with a $81,451 check for unused vacation days — $5,143 more than former police Supt. Jody Weis got for cashing out his 64 unused vacation days.

“We’ve been leaving the taxpayers with the tab while everybody else was, in my view, gaming the system,” Emanuel said of the city’s lenient vacation policy. “... A number of employees used it as a back door. It was unfair to the taxpayers, and people were using it as another way to compensate for their salary, which is not how it was structured.”



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