Congress Passes Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers

Bill includes ban-the-box provision for federal agencies and contractors

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP By Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP December 18, 2019

The U.S. Senate passed a paid parental leave provision Dec. 17 for qualifying federal employees. The House of Representatives also has approved the measure, and it will now be sent to President Donald Trump for signature.

The leave provision is part of a defense spending bill and was reportedly added in exchange for making a "Space Force" a new branch of the U.S. military, according to The Washington Post.

Military service members already may take 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, and under this bill, 2.1 million civilian federal workers also would be able to take paid leave to care for a new baby after birth, adoption or the start of foster care.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) believes that the U.S. must have a 21st Century workplace flexibility policy that works for employers and employees alike, helping them meet work-life and organizational needs.

We've rounded up resources and articles from SHRM Online and other trusted outlets on the news.

Fair Chance Act Included

The military spending bill contains the Fair Chance Act—a so called ban-the-box law that would prohibit federal agencies and federal contractors from asking job applicants about criminal convictions until after a conditional job offer has been made. This is the first major criminal justice bill passed since the First Step Act was signed into law last year. 

(National Employment Law Project) and (SHRM Online)

Additional Benefits for Service Members and Spouses

In addition to offering paid family leave for federal employees, the bill would provide a 3.1 percent pay raise for service members and eliminate a tax penalty for military spouses who collect government benefits after a partner's death. The bill also provides for improvements to military housing conditions.

(The Washington Post)

Democrats Push for Broader Paid Family Leave Rights

The paid parental leave provision only applies to federal employees. "There's still more work to do," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., at an Oversight and Reform Committee hearing Dec. 10. "While we've secured paid parental leave for federal employees, we must continue to fight for paid family caregiving leave and leave to care for one's own medical needs." The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires large organizations to offer employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child, sick relative or their own illness. Although a growing number of states have passed or are considering paid family leave laws, there is no nationwide equivalent.

(SHRM Online)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Family and Medical Leave]

Multistate Employers Face Challenges

As new paid leave laws pop up in more states, multistate employers will have to develop a compliance strategy. Employers can choose to follow the most generous paid-leave policy nationwide or have different paid-leave benefits based on location. If they choose the latter option, "it's often bad for employee relations" when employees learn that their access to paid leave is less than co-workers' in other states, noted Jonathan A. Segal, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia. While there are also administrative and legal issues in overseeing different policies in different states, "your employee relations issues may be bigger than your legal issues," he noted. A uniform national policy on paid family leave could resolve many of the challenges now faced by multijurisdictional employers, he said.

(SHRM Online)

More Businesses Offer Paid Leave

Many employers are enhancing their benefits so they can recruit and retain top talent in a tight labor market. The number of employers offering family leave above the time required by the federal FMLA increased by 6 percentage points, according to SHRM's 2019 Employee Benefits survey. Additionally, while paid leave for new fathers has gone up only slightly since 2018, it has seen steadily rising over the past five years (up 14 percentage points) and is now within 4 percentage points of paid leave for new mothers, the most common type of paid leave for new parents.

(SHRM Online)



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