Probably the most common questions we receive from readers concern the status of proposed changes to employee pay and benefits. Not surprisingly, the person asking the question appears to have a personal interest in the outcome.
One example is the legislation that would provide more paid leave for federal employees who are new parents.
The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, if it becomes law, would provide that 4 of the 12 weeks of parental leave made available to a Federal employee shall be paid leave….” The bill also says that the paid parental leave “shall not be considered to be annual or vacation leave…” but the leave does not accumulate for future use.
The House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia approved the bill this week. That is one step in the legislative process and it now goes to the full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for consideration.
The paid-leave bill would not apply to federal employees who have to care for a sick relative. But, if the legislation becomes law, the federal workforce would have one of the most generous paid-leave arrangements in the United States.
If the bill is passed into law by Congress, it is estimated that it would cost about $850 million over the next five years.
News reports abound about the large numbers of Americans who are seeking employment with the federal government for reasons ranging from job security, pay and benefits to wanting to “make a difference in society.” In other words, there does not seem to be any shortage of people lining up to apply for work with Uncle Sam.
But economic reality does not necessarily get in the way of a politician who sees a good political argument that can be used to secure more votes in the next election. Those supporting the bill claim to see this bill as one that that the bill is “critical both to employee morale and in competing with the private sector to attract and retain the strongest talent to the federal workforce.”
And, in something of a surprise, an informal survey of FedSmith readers last year showed that most of those responding were opposed to providing additional paid leave for new parents. Similar opinions were common in the submissions by readers when this bill was introduced earlier this year.
Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) is the primary sponsor of the bill and she has introduced the topic in some form in Congress for the past few years. Her view is that “As a country that consistently talks about family values, it’s a way of putting rhetoric into reality.”
Last year, a bill on this topic passed in the House of Representatives but it was not approved by the Senate. Senate Bill 354 is a companion bill to HR 656 that is now moving forward in the House.