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Obama Again Urges Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees

The president's fiscal 2017 budget reiterates support for six weeks of paid administrative leave for feds after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

President Obama again is urging Congress to provide six weeks of paid parental leave to federal employees as part of his annual budget proposal.

The administration’s fiscal 2017 budget released Tuesday supports current legislation pending in the House and Senate that would give federal workers six weeks of paid administrative leave after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. Both of those bills are pending in committee.

The goal, according to the budget document, is to establish a “federal family leave policy that is on par with leading private-sector companies and other industrialized nations so that the government can recruit and retain the best possible workforce to provide outstanding service to American taxpayers.”

Obama also pushed for paid parental leave in his fiscal 2016 budget, and through executive actions. Last year, he directed agencies to advance federal employees up to six weeks of paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family member, and also supported legislation that would provide the six weeks of paid administrative leave to feds. Between that memo and the proposed legislation, Obama is advocating for 12 weeks total of paid leave for federal workers from two different leave banks – sick and administrative. Federal workers accrue sick leave as a benefit; administrative leave is an excused absence from work.

Right now, the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to most government and private sector workers for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for seriously ill family members. Federal employees who give birth or adopt can tap their accrued sick and annual leave to avoid three months without a paycheck, but many bristle at having to use hard-earned leave when paid parental leave is becoming more prevalent in the private sector. Last year, Obama signed an executive order allowing feds to use up to six weeks of paid sick leave up front to care for a new child or an ill family member.

An August 2015 executive order required federal contractors to provide up to seven days sick leave for employees – leave that could be used to care for an ill family member.

Obama’s push for paid parental leave is part of a larger agenda to strengthen the middle class by giving families more work-life flexibility. The fiscal 2017 budget, like the administration’s 2016 proposal, includes funding to help five states launch paid leave programs through a paid leave partnership initiative. States that participate “would be eligible to receive funds for the initial set-up and three years of benefits,” the budget document stated.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter last month announced that female service members now will receive 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, one of several personnel initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for military families. Defense also wants to boost paid paternity leave from 10 to 14 non-continuous days, which requires legislation.

Other benefits announced for service members included extending the department’s child care development centers to at least 14 hours a day; installing rooms at DoD facilities for new mothers to breastfeed comfortably; and pursuing an amendment to existing statutory authority allowing service members to postpone moving to a new duty station if they decide that it’s in the best interest of their family to stay put. Frequent moves – a fact of military life – add extra stress on military families, and are often why people leave the service.

Obama’s fiscal 2017 Defense budget would fully fund those initiatives, according to the proposal. “Taken together, these reforms will improve both retention and quality of life for our service men and women, and their families,” the budget stated.

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