Employer-Reported Access to Paid Parental Leave: A study of San Francisco’s Paid Parental Leave Ordinance

Julia M. Goodman, OHSU-PSU School of Public Health
Holly Elser, Stanford University
William H. Dow, University of California–Berkeley

Copyright (c) 2020 The Authors

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



A growing body of research finds that paid leave policies have significant population health benefits for workers and their families, but the lack of a national paid leave policy in the United States leaves most workers without access to any paid leave. In 2017 San Francisco implemented the nation's first fully paid leave policy, mandating that covered employers provide up to six weeks of leave to care for a new child. The objective of our study is to examine how the San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (PPLO) affected paid leave access, including among workers in low-wage industries. Methods: We surveyed Bay Area employers in 2018, the year after PPLO took effect. We estimated difference-in-differences models of changes in access to paid leave before versus after implementation of the PPLO in San Francisco compared to surrounding counties. Results: Availability of paid leave in San Francisco firms increased from 45% in 2016 to 79% following implementation of the PPLO. This is significantly more (p < 0.05) than the increase from 32% to 47% in surrounding counties. Compliance was lowest (67%) among low-wage firms. We found minimal evidence of self-reported negative effects on employers. Overall, 82% of firms supported the PPLO. Conclusions: San Francisco's experience demonstrates the feasibility of using local policy to increase parental leave access.