Federal employees will get a new benefit in 2020: paid parental leave. It was passed recently as part of the National Defense Authorization Act through a bipartisan effort.
Some in Congress have been trying for years to offer this benefit to the federal workforce, and since it has passed it has been receiving praise from lawmakers and various federal employee groups.
The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) called passage of the new leave benefit a “historic achievement” that will help federal employees and their families.
“For too long, federal employees have scrambled to find enough sick or annual or unpaid leave to spend a few precious weeks with their new children. Even worse, many were forced to go back to work before they – or their family – were ready, because they needed the paycheck,” said NTEU national president Tony Reardon. “Soon, those days will be over as mothers and fathers will no longer have to choose between their loved ones and their paycheck.”
President Trump tweeted in support of the bill and the paid leave policy it contained when he promised to sign it.
But not everyone is singing the praises of this new benefit for federal workers. In fact, one state lawmaker recently called it “another step towards socialism” in an editorial he wrote which warned of the long-term consequences of providing paid parental leave to federal employees.
“This program, being another step towards socialism, adds an estimated $3.3 billion dollars to a $4.4 trillion dollar budget with a deficit of $960 billion. Obviously, we cannot afford this. Private sector businesses will first be told to pay for this, through taxes, and then be forced to compete against it, for employees,” wrote Kentucky State Senator John Schickel (R-Union).
He noted in the article that the parental leave benefit received little coverage from the general media, and that it was tucked inside of the defense funding bill. Schickel also questioned the wisdom of putting unrelated bills into broader spending bills.
“What does family leave have to do with national defense? You would think this would be common sense. These dysfunctional procedures are a big problem and should be addressed immediately,” wrote Schickel.
When he questioned Washington lawmakers as to why they had not voted against the bill, he said he was told that they would be seen as “not supportive of the troops” since it involved the military, and with regard to the parental leave provision, “they would be perceived as being ‘against families,’ too.”
Schickel also said that the new policy would likely become the “new gold standard for employee benefit packages,” and he may be onto something as far as expanding paid parental leave beyond the federal workforce. As soon as the new policy became law, House lawmakers held a hearing held a hearing which lamented the lack of a nationwide parental leave program.
Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter and an adviser in his administration, has been the driving force behind a public campaign to institute a national paid family leave policy. Having the Trump administration’s support likely helped put the policy in place for the federal workforce.
But other lawmakers have expressed concerns about rushing to put this policy in place for the nation as a whole. Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) echoed Schickel’s concerns about the costs of a family leave policy. Speaking at the recent House hearing, he said, “We hear a lot of support about the support of the national paid family leave and medical — and I get that it sounds wonderful — but at the end of the day there’s nothing free and at some point this has an enormous cost associated with it.”
Is Schickel right? Is the new parental leave benefit for federal employees just another cog in the wheel towards socialism? Or are the cost concerns being raised much ado about nothing? Feel free to debate the issue in the comments below, but please do so respectfully given that this can be an emotionally charged issue for some people.