Washington D.C. – Surprise proposals to restrict the new paid parental leave program for federal employees are ill-advised and not what Congress intended when it created the program, NTEU National President Tony Reardon said.
In a Thursday letter to the director of the Office of Personnel Management, Reardon urged the administration to abandon changes that would unfairly limit the program and make it less accessible to employees.
“I certainly hope it is not OPM’s intent to narrow the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act in ways that shortchange the men and women of the civil service,” Reardon wrote.
According to OPM’s 2021 budget documents, officials are pursuing unspecified “limitations” on the use of paid parental leave for federal employees who become foster parents. However, the law as signed by the president states clearly that the leave is available for the “birth or placement” of a child, and lawmakers repeatedly said the definition would include births, adoptions and fostering.
“Foster children of any age are at a precarious time in their lives and to suggest that paid parental leave isn’t necessary because they aren’t permanent additions to the family is outrageous,” Reardon wrote.
Reardon also opposed limiting the 12 weeks of leave to each child, which would discriminate against households where both parents are federal employees.
“These proposals raise significant concerns that OPM is thwarting legislative intent – and commonsense family values -- by pursuing ways to limit access to this important benefit,” Reardon wrote.
Finally, Reardon asked OPM for assurances that the rules and regulations for the benefit would be complete and the program would be effective for births or placements after Oct. 1 of this year, as promised.
NTEU first endorsed a paid parental leave program for federal employees 20 years ago, and has been a strong advocate ever since.
“NTEU stands ready to help the U.S. government join the rest of the world and leading private employers in giving their employees a paid parental leave program that helps recruit and retain the next generation of highly skilled workers,” the letter states.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.