Lawmakers urge OPM to update parental leave policy docs
The federal government’s HR agency’s self-imposed deadline of the end of 2024 to ensure the federal employee handbook and public-facing web pages reflect the enactment of 12 weeks of paid parental leave should be “a floor and not a ceiling.”
A bipartisan group of 14 House and Senate lawmakers on Monday called on the Office of Personnel Management to move more quickly to update a handbook and several public-facing web pages to reflect that federal agencies now offer up to 12 weeks per year of paid parental leave.
Last month, the Government Accountability Office published a report finding that 4% of federal workers have availed themselves of the new benefit between when it was implemented in October 2020 and July 2022. And though the watchdog agency found no major obstacles standing in the way of feds seeking parental leave, GAO said a series of policies, web pages and fact sheets covering leave issues had not yet been updated to mention paid parental leave.
“In September 2023, OPM officials told us that they had not yet completed updating the handbook and fact sheets on OPM’s webpage because it has competing priorities and limited staff available to update paid parental leave guidance,” GAO wrote. “OPM officials said that they intended to do so as staff resources and workload permitted. In addition, OPM officials told us they initially waited to issue updated guidance until the FEPLA regulations were finalized, to give agencies time to administer the new benefit and identify any issues, and address any potential legislative changes to FEPLA.”
In a letter to OPM Director Kiran Ahuja Monday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., in the House and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in the Senate, applauded federal agencies’ efforts to implement the benefit, which 55% of federal workers cited as an important factor in their remaining in government, per the 2021 Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey. But they said OPM must work faster to update its materials on leave and other benefits.
“In the Office of Personnel Management and the three agencies selected for review, GAO found ‘no significant obstacles to employees using paid parental leave’ and that these agencies were using several different channels to communicate with their employees about the benefit,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, the report also detailed that perhaps the most important communication channels, the public-facing web pages of the selected agencies, ‘did not reflect current paid parental leave policies.’ The report also found that OPM’s Leave Administration web page is out of date as well. Even worse, the page includes a handbook on paid leave that is nearly a decade out of date and no fact sheets on [the 2019 Federal Employee Paid Leave Act].”
The legislators described OPM’s explanation of “competing priorities and limited staff” as an “inadequate” explanation for the delay.
“We implore OPM to take action immediately and follow the recommendations of the GAO report,” they wrote. “Although OPM plans to have the guidance updated ‘by the end of 2024,’ we stress that as FEPLA has now passed its fourth anniversary of enactment, this deadline should be seen as a floor and not a ceiling.”
The lawmakers requested an update from OPM about its progress in updating its leave policy materials by July 31 and urged officials to focus first on updating its leave handbook and relevant fact sheets on its website.