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Paid parental leave: A retention issue for the federal workforce?

The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2018 was introduced in the House of Representatives on June 28. The proposal would provide most federal employees with up to 12 weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child. Workers would not be required to use up their sick time or annual leave in order to take parental leave.

In addition, when special perks need to be offered for competitive recruitment and retention, the bill would authorize the Office of Management and Budget to allow up to 16 weeks of paid leave to be offered.

A similar bill was introduced in 2017 but did not make it out of House committees.

"This is a competitiveness issue as well as a retention issue for the federal workplace to attract and maintain the top talent in the workplace," says the bill's sponsor, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.).

"Paid parental leave has been proven to help women remain in the workforce, lower infant mortality rates, improve infant health, and reduce depression and other postpartum mental health issues in women. Men who have paid time off upon the birth or adoption of a child are more likely to engage with their child, even after returning to work. The federal government should match other large employers to remain competitive for the top talent necessary for our federal workforce."

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association agreed, adding that paid parental leave is a smart management practice. It has been shown to improve both recruitment and retention among younger workers, significantly reducing turnover costs. It has also been shown to improve morale and, as a result, increase productivity.

"An increasing number of major private-sector employers have recognized these benefits and now provide paid parental leave for their employees," said the association's president. "The United States government should as well."

The bill has been sent to the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for consideration.

If you are planning on bringing a new child into your family, you should know that most federal employees are already entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per 12 months under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The leave is available after the addition of a child and for other specific purposes. The leave is job protected, so your job, or one that is equivalent in pay, benefits and working conditions, must be held open for you upon your return from qualifying leave. Retaliation is prohibited.

If you run into difficulty getting FMLA leave -- or, if the above bill is passed, parental leave -- a federal employment law attorney can help.

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