Lawmakers Trying Again to Give Federal Employees Paid Family Leave

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By on March 6, 2019 in Human Resources with 0 Comments

Young couple holding a baby as they look down smiling at him

Another push is being made in Congress to give federal employees 12 weeks of paid family leave.

The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (H.R. 1534) was introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and has 10 Democrats co-sponsoring (as of the time of this writing), many of whom represent districts in the Washington, DC area.

The bill would guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave for the following cases:

  • Because of the birth of a son or daughter of the employee and in order to care for such son or daughter.
  • Because of the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care.
  • In order to care for the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, son, daughter, or parent has a serious health condition.
  • Because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employee’s position.
  • Because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on covered active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the Armed Forces.

The bill as written would give both men and women the same amount of potential time off.

Past is Prologue?

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because paid family leave for federal workers has been pushed in past sessions of Congress but ultimately never was enacted.

The last attempt was in 2018. At that time, it was a bi-partisan effort as the bill was sponsored by former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA). And before that, there was an effort in 2017 by Maloney; however, that legislation would only have provided 6 weeks of paid parental leave. In 2015, there were efforts in both the House and the Senate to provide 6 weeks of paid parental leave.

Given that these past attempts at guaranteeing 6 weeks of paid parental leave failed, it’s not clear why lawmakers now think they can successfully pass legislation that doubles it to 12 weeks, but if nothing else, they can say they were there in support of federal employees when the election rolls around next year.

One possible explanation for the renewed and bolder effort is Ivanka Trump. She has been behind a policy push in the Trump administration in support of a national paid family leave program. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are reportedly divided on how such a program would be funded (assuming it garnered the necessary support), but if the bill for federal workers were to get through Congress, it’s certainly possible it would be supported by the White House given the reports of the administration’s position on a national family leave policy.

Maloney said in a statement that the new policy is needed to boost morale and productivity in the federal workforce as well as attract new employees, something the federal government is arguably lacking with its ability to recruit younger employees.

“Paid family leave for federal employees isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” said Maloney. “Paid family leave improves productivity, reduces turnover, boosts morale and attracts and retains more talent, which is exactly what our federal workforce deserves right now. We’re the only developed country in the world without some sort of paid leave policy. That needs to change.”

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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