Barring any last-minute changes to Charleston’s 2023 budget, all city employees will be eligible for paid family leave for the first time next year.
“The people who are most affected, they have the least amount of time to do something about it,” said Jennet Robinson Alterman, chair of Charleston Women’s Commission. “Kudos to the City Council for doing this.”
The women’s commission has been pushing the city to adopt the policy since 2019, but plans were derailed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, employees are protected by federal paid leave policies which allow them to take up to 12 weeks off after the birth or adoption of a child. But that policy doesn’t require employers to pay for that time off.
Instead, Charleston employees are encouraged to use all available sick leave and vacation time to maintain their pay during family leave. They could also sign up for short term disability, which covers 60 percent of an employee’s pay.
Charleston City Council voted Nov. 8 to include the policy in next year’s budget. The full budget goes for its first vote Dec. 8.
Based on the number of employees who took short term disability leave in 2019, the year before the pandemic upended schedules, the human resources department estimates the city could be on the hook for about $33,000 in paid family leave annually if the policy is enacted.
But because paid leave will likely be more popular than short term disability, that figure is probably low, said Heather Pope, Charleston’s deputy director of human resources.
“We know that our estimate is going to be on the low end … But it’s hard to predict how many people will have babies,” she said, and that it’s likely that the paid leave will be more popular, resulting in more employees