The city of Austin will expand its paid parental leave benefits for employees over the coming years, eventually doubling the allowed time off for parents after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

How they got here

Last May, both city and county officials pushed to expand paid parental leave benefits for local government employees.

Travis County commissioners first voted to bump paid leave from six to eight weeks at an estimated additional cost of between $2.72 million and $3.55 million per year. That same week, Austin City Council approved a resolution from District 2 Council Member Vanessa Fuentes asking city staff to study gradually increasing the city's paid leave offering from the current six-week allotment to 12 weeks by 2025 or sooner.

The resolution came after city leaders previously moved to grant sworn staff—fire, EMS and police employees—six weeks of paid leave. That policy went into effect in March 2022.

Policies progress

Travis County's new parental benefits went into effect last June. In Austin, an evaluation of expanded paid leave was completed in July, but no policy changes were immediately adopted.

That report found that a jump in paid time off for parents could run the city from around $2.98 million for eight weeks off to $4.47 million for a 12-week total package. Human Resources Director Joya Hayes recommended rolling out expanded leave in two-week increments over the next few years.

City benefits expand

On March 23, acting Human Resources Director Rebecca Kennedy informed Austin officials that the city would be phasing in expanded benefits. City employees will have access to an increased eight weeks of paid parental leave beginning April 9.

That benefit will increase to 10 weeks in October, when the city's next fiscal year begins. And employees will have access to 12 weeks of paid parental leave beginning in October 2024.

“Providing our city employees with better paid parental leave will go a long way in making Austin as family-friendly as possible. These benefits will not only improve the well-being of our employees and their newly formed families, but also enhance our city services by providing better incentives to hire and retain public servants," Fuentes said in a statement.