Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced legislation that seeks to expand federal employees’ paid leave benefits to include family leave.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., are the head sponsors for the Comprehensive Paid Family Leave Act (H.R. 856), which is set to provide all federal workers, including U.S. Postal Service employees, with up to 12 weeks per year of paid leave if the time off is due to a personal illness, to care for an ailing family member, or in connection with a family member going on or returning from active duty. Joining the Democrats in support of the measure was Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.
The bill copies legislation enacted in 2019 granting the federal workforce up to 12 weeks of paid leave in connection with the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. House Democrats advanced the proposal out of committee during the last congressional session, However it failed to receive a floor vote.
“We were able to achieve a major expansion of paid parental leave for federal workers, but we still have more to do,” Beyer said in a statement. “This basic benefit for workers is even more crucial in the age of COVID-19, but the United States still lags the rest of the world in securing guaranteed paid leave for its workforce.”
Federal employees, like those in the private sector, currently are able to take up to 12 weeks of leave to deal with a health condition or a sick family member under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but that leave must be unpaid. Although the law prevents employers from firing employees taking leave under its provisions, that is not enough to protect families living paycheck to paycheck, Fitzpatrick said.
“No parent should have to choose between taking care of their family or keeping their job,” Fitzpatrick said. “This bipartisan legislation would allow federal employees to take up to  weeks of medical and family leave, giving workers the opportunity to care for loved ones without worrying about job security or making ends meet.”
The bill’s reintroduction comes less than a week after President Biden released a statement encouraging agencies to expand their use of paid and unpaid leave for federal employees, particularly new hires who have not yet accrued a bank of paid leave or qualified for coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as federal workers who need time off to escape and recover from domestic violence.
The measure was endorsed quickly by federal employee unions such as the American Federation of Government Employees.
“No worker should have to choose between a paycheck and safely recovering from an illness or caring for a sick loved one,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “The federal government has implicitly acknowledged this fact by reimbursing federal contractors and grantees for the cost of providing paid family leave to their workers. Providing the same benefit to direct federal employees is not only the right thing to do, it will ultimately be more cost-efficient than replacing federal employees who leave for the private sector due to substandard benefits, taking with them expertise and institutional knowledge.”
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