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President proposes paid parental leave for federal employees

Written by: Federal Practice Group
Written by: Federal Practice Group

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The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid parental leave to its federal workforce. Offering paid parental leave -- of the kind customarily offered by leading private sector companies and many, many industrialized nations – has the goal of recruiting and retaining top talent, lowering the costs of employee turnover, increasing employee morale and engagement, and helping create a diverse and inclusive workplace.

According to the White House, for example, offering paid maternity leave has been shown to increase the likelihood that mothers return to their jobs following the birth of a child. This is no small advantage, as the cost of replacing an employee has been estimated to range from 50% of the employee’s salary for a low-skilled worker to 200% of salary for a higher-paid professional. Similarly, paid maternity and paternity leave has been shown to improve the health and development outcomes for infants.

In an attempt to rectify this gap, last month the President issued a memorandum to the heads of U.S. federal government executive departments and agencies on modernizing federal leave policies. The memorandum directs federal agencies to offer their employees 240 hours of advanced sick leave, “irrespective of existing leave balances,” at the request of an employee and in appropriate circumstances, in connection with the birth or adoption of a child, or any other eligible uses for sick leave. The agencies must also ensure that their policies offer the maximum leave permitted by law for bonding with a healthy newborn or newly-adopted child, or when a foster child has been placed in their home.

The memorandum also directs agencies to review their policies with respect to leave for other birth-related reasons; Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave; and break times and private space for nursing mothers.

Debra A. D’Agostino, Founding Partner of The Federal Practice Group and head of its Federal Employment practice, said, “The hard-working employees of our U.S. federal government are entitled to the same benefits as their colleagues in the private sector. It is important that they attain parity so the government can attract and retain the best-qualified people to operate and manage our governmental functions efficiently and productively in times of increasing budgetary constraints.”

By April 15, 2015, the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) is required to issue guidance to the agencies about how to implement their advanced sick and annual leave policies, including their application to part-time employees. Thereafter, the agencies must change their policies no later than January 1, 2016 to comply with the President’s memorandum.

The rights of federal employees are governed by a vast set of statutes, regulations, policies, and procedures that are constantly changing. Laws concerning the leave, benefits, discipline, pay, and retirement of U.S. federal government employees’ are significantly different than those covering private sector employees. It is important for U.S. federal government employees facing job-related legal challenges to have an employment attorney who understands the complex laws governing this area. The federal employment attorneys at The Federal Practice Group have decades of experience handling federal employee issues. They are experienced practitioners, appearing in cases before the EEOC, MSPB, DOHA, and more.

If you are a U.S. federal government employee facing legal problems relating to your pay, retirement, performance, leave, or benefits, contact The Federal Practice Group today to arrange for a case evaluation.

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