Proposed Expansion of Paid Leave for Federal Employees

New legislation would provide federal employees with an additional 12 weeks of paid leave to use in certain circumstances.

Federal employees would find themselves with a lot more paid leave if a bill introduced this week were to become law.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) has introduced the Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act (S. 1158) which would guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave for federal employees in all instances covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The expanded paid leave for federal workers would be guaranteed in the following cases:

  • In order to care for the spouse, or a child, or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, child, 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; and
  • Because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, or child, 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.

Currently under FMLA, qualifying federal employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave, but it is unpaid leave. Schatz’s bill would change that.

The bill is companion legislation to a bill introduced earlier this year by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

Expanding FMLA

Maloney also just introduced legislation to expand FMLA’s coverage. The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act (H.R. 2589) would expand the definition of family under FMLA to include a domestic partner, parent-in-law, aunt, uncle, sibling, adult child, grandparent, grandchild, son- or daughter-in-law, and other significant relationship. It would also guarantee that parents and other family caregivers have the ability to take time off to attend a medical appointment or school function, such as a parent-teacher conference, without risk of losing their job.

If both bills were to be enacted, paid leave for the federal workforce would see a significant expansion.

Other Paid Leave Options for Federal Employees

As of last October, federal employees now get paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

Federal employees also currently accumulate sick leave to use for personal medical needs, family care or bereavement, care of a family member with a serious health condition, or adoption related purposes. There is no limitation on the amount of sick leave that can be accumulated.

Current federal workers are also entitled to paid annual leave. It accrues at varying rates and there are limitations on the amount of annual leave that can be carried over each year.

The recent COVID-19 stimulus bill that became law includes an additional 15 weeks of paid leave to all federal employees, including Postal Service employees, for COVID-19 related reasons for themselves and their families. For details, see COVID Stimulus Bill Includes 15 Weeks of Paid Leave for Federal Employees.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.