A Historic Achievement: Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees

Press Release December 17, 2019

Washington D.C. – The federal government will now be a more family-friendly employer with the historic approval of a paid parental leave program giving frontline civil servants the financial security to be at home during one of the most crucial times of their lives.

A 12-week paid parental leave program for federal employees is part of the defense policy bill that was passed by the Senate today and awaits the president’s signature into law. Starting in October 2020, federal employees will be able to use the paid leave for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child.

“History will rightly record this moment when the federal government finally gave its workforce the ability to welcome a new child into their homes without sacrificing their financial well-being,” Reardon said. “This is one of the most consequential workplace benefits granted to federal employees in many, many years and NTEU is honored to have been a part of this important movement.”

NTEU first endorsed Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s paid parental leave legislation in 2000 and has worked hard ever since to build an expanding base of support on Capitol Hill.

“For too long, federal employees have scrambled to find enough sick or annual or unpaid leave to spend a few precious weeks with their new children. Even worse, many were forced to go back to work before they – or their family – were ready, because they needed the paycheck,” Reardon said. “Soon, those days will be over as mothers and fathers will no longer have to choose between their loved ones and their paycheck.”

NTEU recently surveyed members and several told us their stories about how paid parental leave could have helped them and their families:

From a federal employee who was two months away from the birth of her child: “I know that once I am on leave, I have to choose between bonding with my newborn and coming back to work early because I have to take care of my family financially. It’s a hard decision because if I choose to stay home with my child, I risk being in financial hardship. Twelve weeks paid leave would take away the extra stress and worry not only for me but for my family as a whole.”

From a federal employee who used almost all of her paid leave when her child was born: “If we ever wanted to have a second child I would have to take that time unpaid or I would have to rely on the generosity of others for a donation. I don’t know that we could afford a second child under the circumstances. Paid parental leave would help ease some of that stress.”

From a federal employee who had two babies in the last nine years: “Each time I took a combination of leave without pay, sick leave and annual leave. Returning to work with no leave accruals and missing a few paychecks was hard emotionally, financially and physically on my family.”

Reardon said paid parental leave is a smart, progressive way to recruit and retain the next generation of federal employees.

“It’s hard enough for the federal government to compete against the higher salaries in the private sector, but especially for younger workers, paid parental leave becomes an additional incentive to pursue a career in public service,” Reardon said.

NTEU will continue to advocate for a broader paid family leave program that would help employees take time off to care for seriously ill family members.

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.