Parental Leave Benefit Opposed by Readers

One might think that a legislative proposal to provide more benefits to federal employees would be overwhelmingly supported by the federal community. But, for those in Congress seeking votes, the results of this reader survey may be a surprise. A majority of respondents are opposed to the idea recently endorsed by the House.

FedSmith readers have a mind of their own.

That isn’t a big surprise but recent survey results demonstrate that predicting what people think about a topic is not always as simple or straight-forward as it sounds.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill expanding parental leave for federal employees. The new paid leave package would be in addition to employees being able to use accrued vacation days as part of their parental leave. Also, the new bill would make it easier for a federal employee to use sick leave to care for a new child by eliminating the current requirement to demonstrate medical need when taking sick leave for this purpose.

Some who voted for it undoubtedly think it is a good idea that will be appreciated. Others probably voted for it because it is an election year and minimizing criticism that might appear during a campaign is a logical step for someone who intends to stay in Congress longer than the current term.

But if those who voted for it assuming it would be welcomed or appreciated by all federal employees, they were wrong.

A majority of those taking our recent recent survey (57%) think that the parental leave option is not an idea with which they agree. Also, 55% don’t think it will ever become law anyway.

Over 300 readers sent in their written comments as well as voting in the survey. A number of other comments were also sent in as a response to the original article announcing the survey. Those in favor of the legislation cited reasons including supporting families, providing benefits comparable to countries in Western Europe, or problems they have with having a child and still getting paid without increasing their leave options.

Readers who were opposed to the idea wrote the majority of the written comments and they often cited budgetary considerations, abuse of the current sick leave benefits and how some federal employees stick others with doing their work because they are absent so often. Also, a number of readers cited the inequity of providing additional benefits that would only benefit some federal employees and not others.

Here is a summary of the survey responses.

1.  Do you agree with legislation that would give federal employees four weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child? Total Responses Percentage Grand Total
yes 447 39% 1134
no 646 57% 1134
undecided 41 4% 1134
2.  Do you think the paid parental leave bill passed by the House will be enacted by Congress and signed by the President? Total Responses Percentage Grand Total
yes 200 18% 1134
no 623 55% 1134
not sure 311 27% 1134

Here is a sample of the comments sent in by readers.

A program representative with the VA in Loma Linda, CA wrote: “If patient care is less important than giving an employee more time off than they already have, GO FOR IT!”

A human resources officer from DoD had this observation: “It sounds great in theory but given the rampant leave abuse I see with many of our employees this would rapidly become another boondoggle.”

An HR specialist with the Army at Ft. Riley, Kansas commented: “I don’t think this should be passed. We as government employees have paid sick and annual leave. This can and should be used. a better option would be a disability program that is paid for at least in part by the employees. Why should all American workers pay for time off for families that have children?”

A financial manager who works overseas for DoD says existing leave programs are sufficient: “This is preferential treatment for a selected group only. Fed leave is already adequate if not better than most leave programs on the planet. If you can’t plan your life, why are you having kids?”

An IRS agent from Las Vegas has a similar observation: “[I]f you want to raise a family do it with your own leave. Why should the taxpayer get stuck paying for it??”

A contract specialist with the Bureau of Reclamation in Yakima, Washington says federal benefits are already generous: “We just cannot afford to be spending taxpayer dollars on such benefits to Federal Employees. As Federal Employees, we already receive a great benefit package and to include an additional 4 weeks for parental leave at the cost of taxpayers dollars is ridiculous!”

A manager with the Treasury Department in Ogden, Utah sees a paperwork explosion if this becomes law: “We already experience too much paperwork concerning leave and leave abuse. This will just add to the work for management and will result in more leave abuse.”‘

An HR specialist with DoD in Atlanta also chimed in: “Why allow four weeks of paid leave for employees due to birth of child or adoption when others with serious illness’ don’t wouldn’t receive the same benefit? Not good!”

A mission support specialist with the Air Force in Georgia says “This dog won’t hunt.” “As it stands now, between annual, sick and holiday leave, I earn 344 hours of leave. That equates to more than 8 and a half weeks off already. Now people are clamoring for 4 weeks on top of that? That’s crazy… And…there will be those people who are just ignorant enough to become pregnant just to get the additional time off. Sorry that dog won’t hunt!”

Not all readers are opposed to the idea though. This reader works for USCIS in Washington, DC and wrote: “I believe this is a wonderful incentive to get more federal employees to adopt children.”

A secretary with the VA in Long Beach, CA wants to expand the current proposal: “I think that Federal Employees should have the same paid benefits as private industry. In private industry, this paid parental leave would be under a paid Short Disability.”

An IRS revenue agent from Buffalo cites the “barbaric” employment practices of the U.S.: “Our neighbors to the north, Canada, which is right across the river from Buffalo, receive a year of paid maternity or paternity leave for the birth of a child. I think four weeks is not too much to ask, will benefit families, which will, as a whole, benefit the nation. Plus, maybe my Canadian friends will stop commenting on the “barbaric” employment policies we have in the US.”

An HR assistant with the Forest Service in Clovis, NM wrote: “It’s imperative to have a program like this to make future parenting easier.”

A management analyst with DoD in San Diego thinks the proposal is a good idea: “Other countries already do this. Germany gives 6 mos. Maybe we’d help the disfunctional (sic)  families in this country if we’d let our parents bond with their kids instead of farming them out to the cheapest daycare in 6 weeks.”

And an engine training program manager from the Military Sealift Support Command in Virginia Beach had this suggestion: “I think 4 weeks paid parental leave should be allowed if the leave is subtracted from either the employee’s sick leave or annual leave and should not be advanced.”

Our thanks to all of our readers who took the time to vote in this recent survey and a special thanks to those who also sent in their written comments to share with others in the federal community.