Democrats Move On Paid Parental Leave For Federal Workers

Taking the president’s lead, House Democrats on Monday, January 26, introduced legislation that would provide six weeks’ paid leave to federal employees for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (FEPPLA), H.R. 532, differs from the executive memorandum that President Obama signed on January 15, which permits all federal employees to receive an advance of sick and annual leave to be used for leave connected with the birth or adoption of a child or for other sick leave-eligible uses. The FEPPLA would amend the law to permit federal employees to be paid during their approved Family and Medical Leave Act leave; this time would not count against sick or annual leave.

The lead sponsor of the legislation, Joint Economic Committee Ranking Democrat Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), along with the several other Democratic sponsors, noted that a separate version of the FEPPLA passed the House in the 111th Congress with bipartisan support by a vote of 258-154. In 2009, the FEPPLA bill was determined by the Congressional Budget Office to have no “PAYGO” implications. Its sponsors underscored that the legislation does not require a “pay-for.”

By failing to provide paid parental leave, the federal government lags behind both the U.S. private sector and most industrialized nations, according to the sponsors of H.R. 532, who pointed out that 53 percent of U.S. private-sector employers provide some form of paid parental leave, as do most industrialized nations around the world.

The proposed legislation also applies to all employees of the House and Senate (including members’ personal offices and Committee Staff), Capitol Guide Service, Capitol Police, Congressional Budget Office, Office of the Architect of the Capitol, Office of the Attending Physician, Office of Compliance, the Office of Technology Assessment, Library of Congress, and the Government Accountability Office.

Paid parental leave good for business. Supporters have argued that paid parental leave is not just good for workers and their families, it’s also good for business. The Joint Economic Committee Democratic staff has published a fact sheet on the economic benefits of paid parental leave. Among other things, the fact sheet argues that offering paid leave “improves business productivity by boosting employee morale and making it easier for businesses to retain skilled workers.”

Congresswoman Holmes Norton echoed that sentiment: “Like the majority of Fortune 500 companies, I have found that granting congressional employees paid parental leave not only retains valued employees, but also saves the inefficiency and cost of turnover, which according to studies, costs more than parental leave. There is no cost reason and many other good reasons that benefit children and families that would allow at least the federal workforce to begin to catch up with the rest of the world on paid family leave.”

Sponsors. In addition to Congresswoman Maloney, the legislative proposal is supported by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.). Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are also original cosponsors of the bill.

“You can count on one hand the number of countries that don’t provide paid leave for the birth of a child, and the United States is part of the club,” Maloney said in a statement introducing the proposal. “I remember being a young mother and asking about the leave policy when I became pregnant. I was told what leave? You just leave! It is outrageous that decades later we still don’t have the same basic right that most of the rest of the world enjoys. This is not only wrong; it’s bad for our economy. Smart paid leave policies improve employee retention, boost productivity and more. The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act won’t require additional spending, but it will make a difference in the lives of millions of federal employees—including 61,000 New Yorkers—who should not have to choose between a paycheck and the most important task a human being can take on: raising a child.”

Union weighs in favorably. Predictably, the move was applauded by the largest union representing federal employees. American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. 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 and serve as a model that all employers should follow.”

According to Cox, parental leave benefits also will help the government recruit and retain the next generation of workers. He pointed to the most recent government-wide employee survey finding that workers born after 1980—known as millennials— stay in their jobs just 3.8 years on average.
“This proposal helps narrow a gaping hole in the benefits offered to federal employees, who currently receive no paid leave upon the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. Instead, federal workers must use their own vacation or sick days,” Cox said.

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