Though it may prove tricky to fully protect federal employee pay and retirement, there again appears to be momentum for expanding a different type of benefit: paid parental leave. A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday reintroduced the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (H.R. 1022), which would provide civil servants with six weeks of paid time off following the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. New federal parents currently are eligible for 12 weeks of time off under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, but that time is unpaid and they may have to dip into their sick and annual leave to avoid a major gap in paychecks.
Former President Obama in January 2015 signed a memorandum directing agencies to advance federal employees up to six weeks of paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family members. He also advocated for legislation granting six weeks’ paid leave, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., took the lead in the House, as she has been doing for more than 15 years. Despite some initial optimism about a potential breakthrough, however, legislative efforts again stalled during the last Congress.
This time around, nearly all of the bill’s 46 co-sponsors to date are Democrats, but Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, who represents a federal employee-heavy district in Northern Virginia, has signed on and is helping Maloney to spearhead the effort.
“As a young mom when I was a federal employee, I was acutely aware of the balance between raising a family and building a career,” Comstock said in a statement. “That is why I am teaming up with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney… Extending paid parental leave to federal workers helps diminish the risk of real economic hardships as well as retain the best federal employees from competition in the private sector.”
There is also the potential for support from the White House. President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, has said she will make family issues including maternity leave a priority. Maloney has reached out to Ivanka about the legislation, according to a report in Federal News Radio. “She said she was interested in meeting with us and talking to us about it,” Maloney told FNR. “She has not gotten back to me. She’s very busy I’m sure.”