South Bend MayorButtigieg proposes paid parental leave


South Bend's mayor wants parents to have more time with their babies. That's why he's proposing an addition to the city's 2018 budget that would include a parental leave policy.

Parents would still get paid if they decide to take advantage of the policy.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg says he wants to offer new parents their full salary for up to six weeks.

He says the United States is the only industrialized country without a national law establishing paid parental leave.

Buttigieg says he can't wait for Congress to act, he can only lead by example.

"One of the stated internal goals of our budget is that we want to be a great employer for great employees,” said Buttigieg.

He says part of that goal is attracting employees and getting them to stay. To do that, he says you need more than just good compensation packages.

"We've got to make sure we're doing right by those employees and also that we're positioning them to be as productive as possible and we think that being more family friendly makes the whole community better because our employees are also typically south bend residents,” Buttigieg said.

Doctors in the area say the mayor's plan is a great idea.

"We cannot emphasize enough for moms and dads to have times with their baby, time at home with their baby shortly after birth or shortly after they've been adopted,” said Dr. Christine Ramirez at the South Bend Clinic.

Dr. Ramirez is a pediatrician with the South Bend Clinic. She says longer periods of family bonding leads to healthier families. Without that bonding moms may get depressed and dads are less likely to spend time with their kids later on.

Not bonding also has serious consequences for the kids.

"It can lead to, later on, issues with the child feeling safe and secure and learning how to bond with other people later,” Ramirez said.

The city of South Bend has more than a thousand full time employees and a budget of more than $300-million.

Buttigieg says he can't force other employers to add paid parental leave policies. He can only lead by example.

"They'll realize that it's manageable, they'll realize that their peers and frankly competitors are doing it and that it's a move that more and more employers ought to make,” said Buttigieg.

Dr. Ramirez says paid parental leave is an investment in the short term that pans out over time.

Buttigieg has set aside $156,000 in the budget to pay for his new policy. If the budget passes the policy will go into effect with the new year.

He says the council seemed on board with the idea.

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