Mayor Sly James was recognized last night for his leadership in creating a paid parental leave policy for City employees, making Kansas City among the first cities in the nation to do so. The paid parental leave policy is one component of the Mayor’s Women’s Empowerment initiative, an effort started in 2014 to support women leaders in our city.
“It’s critical for both mothers and fathers to be able to spend that special time after a child’s birth focused on bonding as a family, not worried and stressed about what’s happening at work,” James said. “It’s our responsibility as leaders today to continue the FMLA’s work, providing our employees with the means and support to raise healthy families and strengthen our communities.”
The National Partnership for Women and Families, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies that focus on women and families, lauded Mayor James and the City at the organization’s congressional reception celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA was the first major piece of legislation to require employers to allow employees to take leave for their own serious illness, to care for a seriously ill family member, or for the birth or adoption of a child, while allowing them to return to their position or an equivalent position. Additionally, this morning Chief of Staff Joni Wickham will represent Kansas City at a congressional roundtable with the Committee on Education and Workforce on the topic of paid leave.
After attending a screening of The Raising of America documentary hosted by Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO) and realizing that his own staff did not have paid maternity leave, James began working with the City Manager’s Office to develop a paid parental leave policy.
Established in 2016, the City’s paid parental leave policy gives employees up to six weeks of paid leave at 100% wage replacement, which can be used by mothers and fathers for the birth or adoption of a child. During the policy’s first year of implementation, 98 employees had already utilized the policy.
“Having the ability to spend quality time with my newborn daughter in the first eight weeks of her life, and not worrying about if I would have a job or financial loss was a blessing to me and my family,” Alexis Wafer, a City employee, said. “I truly appreciate this initiative being put into place.”
Meanwhile, a number of community partnerships formed to address the issue in workplaces across the city. CCO and the Health Department teamed up to focus on community outreach to promote childhood health and advocating for paid leave. The Women’s Foundation and the Society of Human Resource Management of Greater Kansas City collaborated to bring the When Works Initiative to Kansas City. When Work Works provides best practices for flexible and effective workplaces, and sponsors an award, which scores businesses’ flexible and family-friendly policies against a national sample and provides free benchmarking to businesses.
Mayor James and the City were recognized previously for leadership in paid leave policy by CCO. Additionally, the Women’s Foundation announced in November The “Mayor James He’s for Change Internship” in honor of work to empower women economically and increase the number of women serving on city boards and commissions. Through a partnership with the Women’s Foundation on the Appointments Project, Mayor James’ administration has increased female representation on Kansas City, Missouri’s boards and commissions from 33% in 2014 to 42% in 2017.