Federal employees that experience the death of a child will now be guaranteed two weeks of paid leave set aside specifically for that bereavement, under the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate on Dec. 15.

Original language in the House version of the bill would have granted federal employees the opportunity to use the recently authorized paid parental leave — which covers 12 weeks of time away from work — to grieve the death of a child. But the conference between both chambers of Congress resulted in a separate bereavement entitlement that covers only two weeks.

The Office of Personnel Management will also be required to conduct a study of remote site pay allowances — which provide additional funds to feds assigned to work in places “so remote from the nearest established communities or suitable places of residence as to require an appreciable degree of expense, hardship and inconvenience,” according to U.S. Code. OPM will also have to make recommendations for any alterations to such allowances.

Beyond impacts to the overall federal workforce, the bill also contains provisions that will affect employees at the Defense Department. Beginning in 2023, new civilian employees at the DoD will receive a one-year probationary period, rather than a two-year time frame, putting them on par with the probationary standard for the rest of the federal government.

The legislation will also ensure defense civilian jobs remain government jobs by requiring senior officials to sign off on new contracts to certify that they comply with existing prohibitions against transitioning the work of federal employees onto government contractors.

Language in the bill will also place a stronger prohibition on arbitrary personnel caps, which can require certain DoD offices to fire hardworking and useful employees in order to bring on new, essential personnel.

The DoD will also be required to report any instances of borrowed military manpower — when service members are pulled from training or operational units to fill roles normally performed by civilian employees.

The DoD will also be tasked with creating a plan for addressing sexual harassment and assault among civilian employees as well as for tracking diversity, equity and inclusion.

“This bill contains many of our top legislative priorities, including restoring the one-year probationary period for new hires in the Department of Defense and preventing the arbitrary outsourcing of civilian jobs to private contractors,” Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement. “These measures will directly improve workers’ pay and job security and signify the critical role of civilian employees in serving our troops and maintaining our national defense.”

Federal firefighters, who are predominantly employed by the military branches but also have positions in the departments of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, among others, will now be able to trade shifts under the NDAA without triggering overtime pay requirements or decreasing their regular pay.

D.C. National Guard members who work at the DoD and other federal agencies will also be provided leave without loss of pay or employment when called to mobilize, correcting a drafting error that previously left them out of such protections.

Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.

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