Get a Life

By Judith Welles

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Get a Life!: Family leave revisited

Among the good ideas that might go nowhere this year, given the government’s budget woes, is paid family leave when a baby is born. With the increasing need to recruit younger employees, government should have a keen interest in providing benefits that appeal to younger families.

Federal employees currently have access to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act. That can be combined with annual and sick leave.

The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (H.R. 3799), introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), would provide paid parental leave. This is similar to what many large private companies offer. 

The Office of Personnel Management proposes a different approach, suggesting short-term disability insurance that employees would pay for and use for a variety of circumstances including pregnancy and childbirth. 

I’m troubled by the idea of treating childbirth as a short-term disability, comparable to illnesses or medical emergencies that occur unexpectedly.

I am also concerned that the federal government currently allows only unpaid leave, along with sick and annual leave. The policy is slightly better than it was years ago when I used all of my available leave for the births of my children. But it still requires mothers – and fathers, too – who want to be with a newborn to use leave designed for other purposes and/or go without income when a child is born. 

As one generation retires, we need the kinds of benefits that will attract the next generation of workers. What do you think about the government’s family leave policy?

Posted by Judith Welles on Mar 18, 2008 at 12:13 PM


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