Workforce

Paid family and medical leave for feds in new House bill

Carolyn Maloney chairs a hearing. Photo courtesy house oversight and government reform committee 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) chairs a hearing. (Photo courtesy: House Committee on Oversight and Reform.)

House Democrats are looking to give federal employees 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave per year under a bill introduced Jan. 28.

If passed and signed into law, the bill would represent the biggest expansion of the federal employee benefits package since feds won 12 weeks of paid parental leave as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform and a major force behind the push to get paid parental leave, is helping to lead the new effort, called the Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act.

"The truth is that many of us will have to deal with a family illness or will have to care for one our aging relatives or will need medical leave ourselves," Maloney said in a conference call with reporters. "This is not anything you can plan, but these are situations we should be able to take care of without fearing of losing a job or missing a paycheck."

The bill gives feds 12 weeks of paid leave to care for themselves, a child, parent or spouses. Feds don't have to first exhaust their regular sick leave in order to access the benefit. The bill also covers feds who have to accommodate the military deployment of a child, spouse or parent.

Supporters of the bill say it would help the federal government with recruitment and retention by reducing turnover and making federal employment a more attractive option to job seekers.

Current policies often push employees out of the workforce when they have to take unpaid leave, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said on the call. Moreover, that often impacts women and people of color disproportionately, said Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), chair of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, also emphasized the potential impact of the policy change on federal hiring and retention issues.

"The federal government is competing with the private sector for the recruitment and retention of the future workforce," he said. "If we're not providing the kinds of benefits that are available in counterpart private sector entities, we're going to have a lot of problems recruiting the federal workforce of the future in the federal government."

"We all know that unpaid family and medical leave is not an option for many federal employees who can't afford to sacrifice personal income when a loved one falls ill, and this law provides a simple solution," said National Treasury Employees Union president Tony Reardon.

Members of Congress are also pushing for emergency paid sick leave in the next COVID-19 relief package, Maloney said.

Lawmakers will also continue to push for paid family and medical leave for all employees, she said. DeLauro said she plans on re-introducing the Family Act next week, a bill that would create a paid leave program for employees nationwide.

"As the largest employer in the nation, the federal government must take charge and set the standard," Maloney said. "We need a permanent solution to a problem that has existed long before the coronavirus pandemic."

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

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