6/23/08: Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to provide federal employees with four weeks of paid parental leave. The bill, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and strongly supported by NTEU, would convert to paid leave four of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave currently available to federal employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The vote was 278 to 146.
In response to the House vote, NTEU National President Colleen Kelley said, “The House passage of H.R. 5781 is a big step toward making a marked difference in the lives of federal employees and strengthening the government’s ability to recruit and retain needed workers.”
In April, President Kelley testified before Congress on the need for this legislation. Her testimony, she said, prompted a number of voice mails and e-mails from NTEU members who shared the hardships they had encountered when forced to choose between a paycheck and the desire to stay home with a new child.
“Some of the people I heard from had terminally ill family members, and having used up all their sick leave and annual leave on caring for them, had nothing left to use upon the birth of a child,” President Kelley said. “Others were ill themselves, but kept working because they had used up all of their leave when they had a child.” Still others cannot afford to take unpaid leave, Kelley said. “This should be an unacceptable situation in today’s United States. Many of the country’s top companies already offer a paid benefit and the federal government needs to do the same.”
While the FMLA has been a terrific first step in helping Americans balance family needs and work needs, President Kelley said, “this legislation is needed to allow employees to follow through on that promise and ensure that every federal worker has the ability to adequately care for a new family.”
Besides helping address these critical family issues, paid parental leave also provides federal agencies with another effective tool in their continuing efforts to recruit and retain the high-quality employees they need. "Most people would be surprised to learn that the government does not currently provide any paid parental leave for its employees," Rep. Maloney recently noted. "With over 2.7 million employees all over the country, the federal government should be a leader in family-friendly workplace policy. Right now, we're lagging behind."
NTEU is now turning its attention to companion legislation, introduced by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), which is pending in the Senate.