Legislation has been reintroduced in Congress to give federal employees six weeks of paid parental leave following the birth, adoption or fostering of a child.
The bill was also introduced in the previous Congress but ultimately failed to advance. When last introduced, it followed guidance put out by the Obama administration which directed agencies to give federal employees up to 240 hours of advanced sick leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
The latest version of the legislation is being introduced in the House (H.R. 1022) by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and is co-sponsored by Barbara Comstock (R-VA), and companion legislation in the Senate (S. 362) was introduced by Brian Schatz (D-HI). The six weeks of paid parental leave would be available to both mothers and fathers.
Maloney has been courting an unlikely spokeswoman for the bill: Ivanka Trump. The Hill reported that Maloney has been in talks with Trump to help get the legislation passed.
“I did call her [Trump]; I did send her a copy of the legislation. … She said she was interested in meeting with us and talking to us about it,” Maloney said in a press conference.
The legislation could also potentially have a seemingly unlikely supporter: President Donald Trump. When he was on the campaign trail, Trump put forth a proposal for expanding paid parental leave benefits by expanding tax credits and establishing new Dependent Care Savings Accounts for childcare expenses. While the bill would only apply to federal employees, Trump has shown in the past that he is amenable to efforts to expand paid parental leave.
Federal employee advocacy groups and unions were quick to praise the bill.
National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) president Richard G. Thissen said in a statement:
It has been well-documented that paid parental leave improves recruitment and retention of highly qualified, talented employees. It boosts employee morale, which has been shown to increase productivity, and reflects the value that the citizens of this country place on family and parenting. This legislation also has the added benefit of not increasing the federal budget deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Many private-sector employers recognize the value of the policy. It is past time for the federal government to do so.
National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) National President Anthony M. Reardon said:
Over the last ten years, while almost every major US corporation has instituted and expanded paid parental leave policies, the federal government has failed to step up for its own employees. That is why it is so important that this legislation becomes law now.
Some groups, however, think that federal employees already have overly generous leave benefits. The Heritage Foundation, for example, has made the case in the past for reducing federal employees’ leave benefits.
In its “Blueprint for Reform,” the Heritage Foundation noted that a federal employee with at least five years of service has up to 33 days of paid leave. A typical private-sector employer offers between 19 and 23 days of paid leave and fewer paid holidays for employees who has been with the company for five years.
Consequently, the proposal recommends Congress combine federal vacation and sick leave into a paid time off (PTO) plan. This would result in 16 days for workers with fewer than three years of service and up to 27 days for federal employees who have worked longer time periods.
A more detailed description of the proposal is available in Worst Case Scenario: Proposed Cuts to Federal Pay and Benefits.
The Heritage report, however, does not address paid parental leave directly as envisioned by the bill just introduced.
The new Congress has thus far not shown a strong willingness to enact legislation that will help the federal workforce with efforts being put forth such as making it easier to fire federal workers or abolishing entire agencies. However, if the legislation could get support from the Trump family, it may end up gaining more support than it did in the past Congress.