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House, Senate Agree To Offer Federal Workers Paid Parental Leave

The annual National Defense Authorization Act will contain a provision giving federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave to care for a new or sick child. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced an agreement between the House and Senate to include the paid parental leave provision in the bill, which is considered a must-pass bill. Schumer called the agreement a "real breakthrough for families."

Currently, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides most employees, including federal civilian workers, with the right to take up to 12 weeks per year in unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons, including:

  • The birth, adoption or fostering of a new child
  • To care for a spouse, parent or child with a serious health condition
  • To care for one's own serious health condition that prevents the worker from performing their essential job functions
  • To deal with a qualifying exigency involving a military spouse, child or parent on covered active duty

In addition, the FMLA provides up to 26 workweeks each year to care for a covered military servicemember with a serious illness or injury, as long as that servicemember is the worker's spouse, parent, child or next of kin

In either case, the employee is to receive continuation of their group health insurance under the same conditions as if they had not taken leave. The leave is also job-protected, meaning the employer cannot retaliate against the employee for taking the leave.

Paid parental leave would be a new benefit

Since the FMLA only provides unpaid leave, this would be a new benefit for federal workers. Schumer also suggested that passing the provision would encourage more private employers to offer similar benefits to their workers. The federal benefit would be offered on the same terms to all qualifying parents.

The bill appears to have bipartisan support. For example, the Associated Press quotes presidential advisor Ivanka Trump as saying the bill would "mark a HUGE step forward towards making paid leave a reality for all Americans."

A must-pass bill

The National Defense Authorization Act is considered must-pass legislation by Congress, and there is an incentive for President Trump to sign it into law. The Act authorizes the first expenditures for the president's proposed Space Force.

If you have questions about paid parental leave or the FMLA, contact an experienced employment law attorney.

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