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King County Council To Consider 12 Weeks Of Paid Parental Leave For Its Employees

Tim Samoff

One of the challenges faced by new parents is figuring out how much time they can afford to take off from work. Today the King County Council will vote on a measure that would give new parents who are county employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

The main author of the measure is Councilman Rod Dembowski who represents District 1, which includes Northeast Seattle, Kenmore, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park. When the 12 weeks of time of with full pay is referred to as a generous benefit, Dembowski quickly counters, “I don’t think it’s overly generous. It’s a good investment of resources to improve health outcomes for parents and kids and to make sure we can recruit and retain the best employees in the region.”

Dembowski, who is a father of two children, argues such a benefit would keep King County competitive with global tech businesses that have offices in Seattle. Google offers up to 22 weeks of paid parental leave. Facebook  employees can 17 weeks off. King County is self insured. Paid time off for new parents could lower health costs.  

“There’s a lot of science out there that with new parents and newborns improves health outcomes for the children and particularly the mom. So every dollar we save in a preventative approach, is a dollar or several dollars we won’t have to pay out,” says Dembowski.

There are a handful of government agencies across the country that offer paid leave for parents who’ve either given birth to a child, adopted or are new foster parents. Seattle just approved four weeks of paid leave. San Francisco covers 12.

If approved by the full council, the details of King County’s policy would be sorted out by Executive Dow Constantine. An estimate of what the maximum cost to the county would be is 4.5 million a year.  


Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.