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Trump Approves Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers

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

A woman kissing her baby on the bed.

Federal employees will soon be eligible for paid parental leave under a measure President Donald Trump signed Dec. 20.

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 will be able to take paid leave to care for a new baby after birth, adoption or the start of foster care.

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.

"This is an area where the U.S. federal laws are not aligned with the laws many of our international employers are accustomed to, and we are definitely seeing a swing in the direction of increasing paid leave entitlements," said Cheryl Behymer, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Columbia, S.C.

Charles Thompson, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in San Francisco, said employers can expect further state—not federal—revisions and expansions of paid family leave laws, primarily in Democratic-leaning states. 

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 leave provision is part of a defense spending bill that also contained 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 applies only 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."

(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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