Anchorage Assembly adds paid parental leave benefit for some city employees

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed an ordinance adding four weeks of flexible paid parental leave for many city employees.

The legislation’s sponsors, members Austin Quinn-Davidson, Meg Zaletel and Chair Suzanne LaFrance, said such a “common-sense policy” is long overdue for the municipality. They said it will benefit Anchorage families and children, and that it will also benefit the city by helping to attract and retain staff.

“Paid parental leave is pro-family and pro-business. It comes with many many benefits. It lowers the incidence of infant hospitalization and infant mortality. It lowers rates of postpartum depression. It increases engagement between fathers and their children,” Quinn-Davidson said.

“Paid leave reduces family’s use of public assistance and increases parents’ overall time worked, and that’s because offering a short break for parents keeps those employees working in the long run. These policies increase productivity at work and they increase morale. They save employers money over time,” she said.

Mayor Dave Bronson, in a statement on Wednesday, said he supports the policy and thanked the Assembly.

“I am happy to support paid parental leave for Municipal employees because I believe there is nothing more important than for a parent to have that time with their newborn child,” Bronson said. “We know our community faces a child care crisis, and we know employers are having significant problems attracting and retaining qualified workers because of the lack of affordable childcare. As a city, and as one of the largest employers in Anchorage, it makes sense for the Municipality to provide this benefit as a tool to attract employees and retain our good people.”

The policy goes into effect immediately for executive staff and other city employees who are not represented by a union — about 23% of the municipal workforce, Quinn-Davidson said. The legislation does not apply to represented employees, though it urges the administration to work with unions to add paid parental leave as a benefit for all city staff as soon as possible.


Bronson said it will take time to fully implement the policy for all employees.

“I look forward to having discussions with the unions on how we best can craft a path forward that works for represented employees and the city,” he said.

Staff who have been with the city for six months or more can now take four weeks of parental leave within one year of a qualifying event, including the arrival of biological and adoptive children as well as the placement of foster children. The leave doesn’t have to be taken consecutively, allowing employees to use it in one-week intervals.

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Starting Jan. 1, 2024, city employees will be eligible for the benefit immediately after hire.

It’s a modest policy, LaFrance said, noting federal employees receive 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

In 2021, the city briefly offered a similar benefit. As the city’s then-acting mayor, Quinn-Davidson had taken executive action and implemented a paid parental leave policy. It lasted for just about two months — Mayor Bronson rescinded it after taking office later that year.

Bronson at the time said the change was “announced hastily” by the outgoing Quinn-Davidson administration and that its costs had not been adequately considered.

Quinn-Davidson on Tuesday night said that’s not true. Work on a paid parental leave policy began under former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz in the spring of 2020, including a cost analysis, she said.

Bronson, in his Wednesday statement, stood by his decision to revoke the previous policy, saying he did so because he took issue with how the policy was implemented by the former acting mayor, not because he disagreed with its merits.

“Good public policy should undergo review, public comment, and face scrutiny from the legislative body. I want to thank the Assembly for their work on this proposal and the thoughtfulness that went into crafting it,” he said.

Quinn-Davidson said the policy will not have a significant fiscal impact for the city. And because it may help retain employees, it could lead to a reduction in costly employee recruitment, hiring and training processes, she said.

The new policy comes as the municipality struggles with high vacancy rates in some departments. The embattled Bronson administration has seen several recent departures of top executives. Meanwhile, it faces accusations of a hostile work environment from fired Municipal Manager Amy Demboski. Over the last few months, the city’s ombudsman has also received numerous complaints alleging a hostile work environment at City Hall.

Bronson has largely remained silent on the issues, declining to speak publicly about the accusations, citing the potential for litigation and personnel privacy rules.

On top of the issues at City Hall, Alaska is losing young residents, Quinn-Davidson said. Anchorage has lost 15,000 working-age residents since 2015, she said. The city’s benefits package is not competitive with other employers’ benefits and often higher salaries, she said.

“The labor pool is shrinking and the municipality must be competitive,” Quinn-Davidson said. “This is especially true during this administration when we are hemorrhaging employees.”

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Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at