City of Houston employees to receive paid leave for prenatal wellness, baby bonding

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston's City Council unanimously approved paid prenatal, parental, and infant wellness leave for city employees on Wednesday morning.

It was a move that signaled a sigh of relief for Katie Shelton, who is expecting a baby in July.

"It means I can rest easy and finally be calm about everything," said Shelton, who serves as District G Councilmember Mary Nan Huffman's chief-of-staff. "I was sick last week and didn't take sick time."

The new plan goes into effect on May 14 and provides paid leave for everything from prenatal wellness appointments, to post-birth child bonding, and wellness care up to the child's first birthday.

In the past, employees could only use sick or vacation time if they wanted to get paid for taking time off to care for their newborn, infant, or attend prenatal appointments.

"Every single city employee serves Houston with dedication and commitment to public service," said District C Council Member Abbie Kamin. "A unanimous vote sealed the deal to make sure that every single person (and their families) knows that they matter."

The paid leave is for full-time employees who have been with the city of Houston for at least six months prior to their leave of absence. This includes employees of all genders, as well as adoptive and foster parents.

The council chamber, which included some city workers and their infants, applauded upon completion of the vote.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said this is good for everyone involved, as it also means employees won't have to leave for employers who already offer these benefits.

"We're in a very tight labor market," said Turner. "But the reality is that this is just the right thing to do."

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