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Small Business Commission: Paid Parental Leave Legislation Needs Tuning

Securing time for new parents to bond with their children was at odds with the demands of operating a small business in San Francisco at the Small Business Commission’s March 14 meeting.

District Eight Supervisor Scott Wiener presented his proposed legislation which would require employers to partially cover parental leave for their employees.

An existing state requirement already provides 55 percent of an employee’s regular pay for six weeks of paid time off to new parents, paid into by employees through the State Disability Fund, according to Wiener.

Under the proposed legislation, which is an amendment to the Police Code, employers with 20 or more employees will have to provide an additional 45 percent of the employee’s regular compensation as paid time off for new parents, ensuring that each employee will receive 100 percent of their regular pay while out on their six months of leave.

“For many it’s a choice between bonding with a new child and putting food on the table, and that is a choice people should not have to make,” Wiener said, adding that the United States is one of only four countries in the world that does not have mandated paid parental leave.

The legislation has been amended to limit eligibility to workers who have been employed at a business for 90 days, and there will be more amendments to follow, Wiener said.

“That [20 employee requirement] is really going to hurt small businesses,” Commissioner Stephen Adams said.

Wiener said that the Chamber of Commerce had recommended that the requirement be raised to businesses with 50 or more employees, but “about 96 percent of workers work at a business where there are less than 50 employees,” and incorporating the Chamber’s recommendation “would exempt the overwhelming majority of workers from this legislation.”

During public comment, small business advocate Scott Hauge disputed Wiener’s statistic, stating that 52 percent of employees work for businesses of 100 employees or less. Hauge said that he considered the 20-employee business size requirement too onerous, and that the threshold for eligible part time workers be raised from eight hours per week.

Small business advocate Stephen Cornell asked the commission to request an amendment requiring all businesses engaged in public contracts with the City and County of San Francisco be subject to the paid parental leave program to ensure participation of San Francisco firms in those contracts.

Samantha Higgins of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association expressed her group’s concern about the 90-day qualification requirement, stating that in high-turnover industries such as restaurants, employees should be required to be employed for six months to a year before becoming eligible for paid parental leave.

Commissioners expressed their dissatisfaction with the current legislative atmosphere.

“This city is progressively, and I use that word intentionally, making it more and more difficult to operate a small business in the City and County of San Francisco,” Commissioner Mark Dwight said.

Commissioner Adams took it a step further.

“Small businesses in this town are under attack,” Adams said. “You go into our neighborhoods, into Upper Market, and you see lots of small business vacancies,” referring to conversations with merchants who cite excessive legislation as reason to relocate business outside of the city.

The commission unanimously moved to withhold support of the legislation until their preferred amendments become adopted. Those amendments include that employees be eligible for the program after six months of working at a business, that only employees who work a minimum of 20 hours per week be eligible, that the program be required of businesses with 50 employees or more, that the program applies to all city vendors and that all additional amendments made by request of the business community be adopted.

Meeting Recap

  • The commission requested business-protecting amendments to the paid parental leave legislation.
  • The commission approved a resolution making changes to a Special Tax District to make accessibility financing available to people with disabilities.
  • Lombard Corridor Coalition presented concerns with SFMTA’s safety improvements to Lombard Street. Residents are concerned about the removal of parking spaces and the placement of bus stops outside commercial storefronts.
  • Commissioners vetted questions regarding Super Bowl 50’s impact on small businesses to be included in an upcoming survey prepared by Office of Small Business.

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