Senate bill would give feds paid family and medical leave

Apr 16, 2021
In The News

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced a bill on Thursday in the Senate to give federal employees paid family and medical leave. A companion bill was introduced in January in the House, where Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is leading the charge to expand paid leave options for feds.

“Our current laws are still forcing federal workers to make the impossible choice between caring for their families and keeping their jobs,” Schatz said in a statement about the bill.

The effort to provide paid family and medical leave comes after federal workers got expanded parental leave as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which provided 12 weeks of paid family leave upon the birth, adoption or fostering of a child.

If passed, the bill would expand that to provide 12 weeks of paid leave to care for family members with serious health conditions, attend to their own serious health condition or for exigencies that come from a family member being a military member.

Currently, family and medical leave for federal employees is unpaid.

Under the bill, employees wouldn’t have to first burn through their sick and annual leave to use the new paid leave, but to qualify, they would need to have worked at an agency for at least a year.

Federal employee unions cheered the introduction of a companion bill in the Senate. Proponents say that giving federal workers a paid leave option to use to care for themselves or for family members who are sick or aging would prevents feds from having to take unpaid leave.

“Federal employees are middle class workers and too often they are forced to sacrifice their paycheck and take unpaid leave because of an extended medical crisis” said Tony Reardon, the national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a statement about the bill. “Senator Schatz’ legislation would provide our nation’s civil servants the financial stability to stay home when they need it most.”

Others supporting the bill say it would help the government attract and maintain a workforce.

 “Providing federal employees with 12 weeks of paid leave … would improve quality of life for workers while making the federal government a more competitive and attractive employer,” said national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Everett Kelley