Federal employees with a new child will now be able to take up to six weeks of paid leave, according to a presidential memo released Jan. 15.

President Obama will also call on Congress to give federal employees an additional six weeks of paid parental leave — raising the total time off for new parents to 12 weeks.

Agencies will be able to advance federal employees six weeks of paid sick leave to care for a new child, take care of adoption proceedings or for the placement of a foster child in their home, according to a White House fact sheet.

The new policy will help agencies recruit and retain the best possible workforce, according to the fact sheet.

"While federal workers already have access to paid sick leave and vacation time, the government has fallen behind industry-leading companies and offers no paid time off specifically for family or parental leave," the fact sheet said.

The new policy will also apply to federal employees caring for a seriously ill family member, according to the fact sheet.

The memo will also ask agencies to provide an emergency backup care program for federal employees with children, seniors or adults with disabilities when they need to go to work but their regular care is unavailable. Some agencies already offer this emergency benefit, according to the fact sheet.

The new policy is part of a larger administration effort to promote paid family leave across the country. President Obama is also calling on Congress to expand family leave and is making money available to conduct feasibility studies on the issue.

The new policy will help narrow a gaping hole in benefits offered to federal employees, said J. David Cox, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees. Federal employees currently receive no paid leave for a new child and must use their own sick or vacation days, he added.

"Because of this, employees are forced to either take off work without pay or return to work far too soon, robbing their children of early nurturing that's vital for future development," Cox said. "The federal government already reimburses its contractors for the cost of paid parental leave. It's time for government to extend these benefits to its own employees."