Tampa City Hall to begin offering employees paid parental leave

TAMPA — City Hall will begin offering paid parental leave to full-time employees who have a baby, adopt or take in a foster child starting this month.

Primary caregivers will get eight weeks of paid time off after the arrival of a new member of the family. City-employed spouses or partners of a primary caregiver will be eligible for two weeks of paid leave.

"Tampa is competing with cities around the world," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a YouTube message to city employees Wednesday. "Attracting and retaining the most talented requires providing a 21st century workplace for our families."

Full-time employees who have completed their first year with the city will be eligible for the new benefit starting Feb. 12. It‘s estimated that it will cost Tampa up to $290,000 a year to provide the benefit for its workforce of 4,400.

Tampa is not the first local government in the area to offer this benefit. In December 2014, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said his city would begin offering employees six weeks of paid parental leave.

Tampa officials say access to paid leave for new parents has been shown to offer a variety of benefits to both mothers and children. It is expected to help the city recruit and keep employees, reduce turnover, boost productivity and increase the probability that employees will return to continue pursuing their careers with the city.

"Families should never be faced with a choice of whether to take those critical first weeks home with their child or put food on the table," Buckhorn said. "Parental leave, child care and the like are not women‘s issues. They‘re economic issues, and the progress that we make on this front will directly impact our competitiveness on the global stage."

Tampa‘s move follows expansions of parental leave by big corporate employers. reported in December that American Express would begin offering paid maternal or paternal leave for up to 20 weeks. The newspaper said Ikea, Netflix, Adobe Systems, Hilton Hotels and Chobani likewise have expanded their parental leave programs.

Before this change, Tampa City Hall did not provide any paid maternity or paternity leave. Rather, it followed federal Family and Medical Leave Act guidelines that call for providing certain employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected time off, plus the maintenance of their health insurance benefits.

The city‘s three labor unions have been notified of the change, but the policy was not part of the benefits packages negotiated as part of the new, three-year contracts that the city and unions agreed to recently.