Paid parental leave bill introduced in House

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced legislation Thursday to give federal parents six weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave.

"We are here today in support of families," said Maloney, who co-chairs the Congressional Women's Caucus. "Everyone talks about supporting families, but when you look at the policies, they are not as supportive as they should be. In a federal government that says it is family friendly, public employees should not lose pay for becoming parents."

Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows federal employees to take up to 13 days of paid sick leave to care for newborns-and only five days if they maintain a balance of fewer than 10 days in their sick leave reserves. Parents can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity or paternity leave.

Maloney's bill, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, would grant paid leave for employees to care for either newborn or adopted children. The bill would create a separate category of leave to allow new parents to take up to six weeks of paid time off. The time would not come out of accrued sick leave.

Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., and Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., joined Maloney at the press conference in support of the bill, along with Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, and David Schlein, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees.

The lawmakers emphasized the need for government to become more competitive with industry in recruiting and retaining federal workers, offering benefits that improve the quality of life for employees.

"If we in the federal government are to compete with the IBMs and Banks of America out there, we must pass this legislation. Respecting the need for parents of newborn children to spend time ar home without losing pay or, in some cases, their jobs, is a major component of moving toward a competitive, family-friendly environment in the federal government," said Davis.

In response to a question about the cost of this legislation, Maloney said the sponsors had asked the Congressional Budget Office for an estimate. Davis noted that providing paid leave would reduce the risk of losing valuable workers who might otherwise quit to care for children. Replacing these workers could wind up costing the government more money in the long run, he said.

Among most industrialized nations, the United States is far behind in providing leave to parents. Member countries of the European Community provide an average of 14 weeks paid leave.

"Right now, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is working a relaxed schedule that allows him to take care of the family after the birth of their son, Leo," said Woolsey. "Sure, he's the Prime Minister, but in France, Germany, and 120 other countries, every new parent, regardless of occupation, is doing the same."

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