Mayor Justin Bibb greets children from Ward 5 at the Labor Day parade 2022
Mayor Justin Bibb greets children from Ward 5 at the Labor Day parade 2022 Credit: Paul Rochford / Signal Cleveland

Employees of the City of Cleveland could receive up to 12 weeks of paid family leave under a proposal to be introduced in City Council on Monday. 

Under the legislation, new parents who work for the city would receive full pay and benefits while taking time off following the birth or adoption of a child. Employees would also be entitled to 20 hours of leave for prenatal or pre-adoption appointments. 

Mayor Justin Bibb announced the legislation in an email to employees on Sunday, which was Mother’s Day. 

“This is something that our employees deserve and have been requesting for far too long,” the mayor said in a video accompanying the email

In a news release on Monday, Bibb said he hoped the policy would encourage other employers in the region to offer similar benefits. The release did not place a price tag making the benefit available to the city’s more than 7,000 employees.

Ward 17 Council Member Charles Slife, who represents the West Park neighborhood, co-sponsored the legislation with the mayor. Slife guessed the benefit would cost the city about $1 million a year, but said paid family leave is worth the expense. 

“We’re not putting families in positions for stability and success by being miserly with our dollars,” Slife told Signal Cleveland. 

He said City Hall’s employment policies are “trapped in the 80s,” presuming that workers are part of two-parent households in which one parent stays home. City government can compete for employees by making itself more attractive to working parents, he said. 

“We are competing for employees just like any other business ,and we have to be relevant in that competition,” Slife said. “We need to be fighting tooth and nail to make sure that we are attracting people to our workforce.”

If approved, the benefit would become available for full-time, non-union workers. The city would then need to negotiate the leave policy into union employees’ contracts. 

The proposal has been months in the making. Now a coalition of paid-leave advocates is pushing the administration to go further by trying out family caregiving and medical leave.

The coalition – which includes labor unions, the Cleveland NAACP, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland and others – sent a letter to Bibb, Slife and Council President Blaine Griffin. In the letter, the groups encouraged the mayor to pilot a six-week paid leave benefit for employees who would otherwise take unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

“This policy demonstrates your campaign promises of a modern city hall, an equitable city, data-based decisions, and the urgency of now: ‘Cleveland Can’t Wait,’” the letter reads.

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.