More Paid Leave for Some Federal Employees? It Could Happen This Year

Will some federal employees get an extra four weeks of paid leave? If a bill introduced in the House of Representatives again this year, it could happen.

The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act died without action in the last Congress.

The idea is apparently not dead though as it has been brought up again this year.

Federal employees can now take 12 weeks of unpaid leave or use their vacation or sick leave after the birth or adoption of a child. The purpose of the new bill is to provide more money for federal employees when having a child. The new bill states that its purpose is "To provide that 4 of the 12 weeks of parental leave made available to a Federal employee shall be paid leave…."

Moreover, the paid parental leave "shall not be considered to be annual or vacation leave…." The bill also provides that the leave does not accumulate for future use.

The bill would also give the director of the Office of Personnel Management the option of increasing the amount of paid leave. OPM "may promulgate regulations to increase the amount of paid parental leave available to an employee…to a total of not more than 8 administrative workweeks…."

In a survey of readers last year, 57% of those responding opposed the idea of paid parental leave. A few hundred comments were submitted. Many of the readers opposing the idea were of a similar mind to this human resources specialist from Fort Riley, Kansas who wrote: "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 reader from Georgia wrote: "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."

A good guess would be that the readers opposed to the idea are not of an age where they will be having children. One Department of Defense analyst sent in a comment similar to other readers that want the extra leave: "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."

It is too early in the year to be able to predict the chances of this bill passing. Without a doubt, there are going to be a number of bills introduced early in the session with sponsors or interest groups hoping to take advantage of the euphoria accompanying a transition of power. (Among them, in all likelihood, a bill to provide additional credit to federal employees under the FERS system with unused sick leave.) As Congress begins to take action on some of these bills, we will soon get a better understanding of the mood among lawmakers for changing federal employee benefits.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47