Federal Employees Could Receive Six Weeks Of Paid Leave
Senators Brian Schatz, a democrat from Hawaii and Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, presented the Senate with proposed legislation that would provide six weeks of paid administrative leave to take care of a new child. Birth, adoption and foster placement would all be acceptable uses of this new federal employee benefit.
The legislation stipulated that the six weeks of paid leave would be separate from sick and annual leave accruements and those federal employees would not have to dip into those allotted hours as part of their paid leave.
Most federal employee benefits include access to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act. This act applies to both private and public sectors and these hours apply towards the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child as well as medical leave (in which the employee is caring for a seriously ill family member). Employees who qualify for these 12-weeks often use up their sick and annual leave to avoid losing paychecks.
While this option is viable, many feel that federal employee health benefits should include paid leave so workers do not have to tap into their earned sick and personal leave.
Senator Schatz told the Senate, “While private companies are beginning to see the benefits of providing paid family leave, America is still the only industrial nation in the world without a program that gives working parents the time off and income they need to care for a new child.”
Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York introduced a companion bill to the House on Tuesday. Maloney commented on the current U.S. program during a press conference, saying, “This is embarrassing. I would say that it is shameful, and it’s a disgrace.”
The goal for a better program for new parents is not a new one for Maloney who has been working since 2000 to provide paid time off for federal employees who have new children. While Maloney’s legislation has passed the house twice in 13 years, it has yet to get through the Senate.
Support for Leave
Both senators and Maloney have the support of several groups in support of federal employee benefits including the American Federation of Government Employees, the Retired Federal Employees Association, the National Treasury Employees Union and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. The groups referred to this bill as commonsense and encouraged lawmakers to act on the legislation quickly.
Proponents of the bill have argued that this legislation would not add to the nation’s already staggering deficit and the Congressional Budget Office also found that new legislation providing these hours would not create any extra direct spending. The study by the Congressional Budget Office valued the time off payments at $140 million for four weeks of paid leave and roughly $209 million for 8 weeks.
Maloney and other proponents of the bill countered arguments of loss of productivity by saying employees would just have to help pick up the slack while their coworkers are on leave.