Update: Dec. 17
The Senate approved a defense policy bill on a 82-8 vote that includes provisions to provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave starting in October 2020. The bill now goes to President Donald Trump’s desk for signature.
The defense appropriations agreement reached by House and Senate appropriators will officially provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, whether through birth, adoption or foster care.
Though original family leave efforts aimed to provide for 12 weeks for new parents and for feds to care for a sick relative, the agreement included in the National Defense Authorization Act report released Dec. 9 would only cover cases of a new child in the family.
“I am glad that NDAA conferees have agreed to include paid parental leave in the conference report. However, this must be seen as only a first step,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in testimony prepared for a House hearing on such leave.
“While I am relieved that all federal employees will enjoy this benefit after Oct. 1, 2020, and not only Department of Defense employees as some had suggested, I am disappointed that paid benefits are limited only to the birth or adoption of a child and not time needed to care for oneself or a sick relative. I hope the Congress can finish this work and extend that benefit soon.”
The paid leave authorization would also come with additional restrictions on how employees may use such leave, such as requirements that the employee have completed 12 months of service before taking the leave, use the paid leave within 12 months of the birth or adoption of the child without the option to accrue such leave and sign an agreement to return to service for 12 months after returning from such leave.
The paid parental leave does not require that feds use their sick or annual leave first and does not prevent employees from also using that leave.
Some feds may also have the requirement to return to work after the expiration of their leave waived if they can demonstrate that they have a continuation, recurrence or onset of a serious health condition due to the birth or placement of the child.
Feds will also have to wait until Oct. 1, 2020, to use the paid leave option, meaning that feds who are currently expecting a child may not be able to access such leave immediately after their child’s arrival.
The new leave option is not guaranteed, however, as both chambers of Congress must pass the bill, and President Donald Trump must sign it before it can become law.
“This is a monumental step forward in allowing federal employees to bond with their new children whether a new birth, adoption or foster. It is a crucial time in their lives, and they shouldn’t have to choose between their children and their paycheck,” said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union in a statement.
According to a statement from American Federation of Government Employees National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley, the new leave option will also serve as a valuable recruitment tool for agencies:
“The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not offer its citizens some level of paid parental leave. This agreement is a watershed moment that sets the stage for achieving the ultimate goal of providing all American workers with paid family leave.”
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.