The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Obama tells agencies to advance sick leave for feds with new children

This post has been updated.

President Obama signed a memo Thursday directing agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave to federal employees with a new child. He also is urging Congress to pass legislation providing them an additional six weeks of paid administrative leave.

This is part of a larger effort “to strengthen working families across America” and is designed to help “recruit and retain the best possible workforce to provide outstanding service to American taxpayers,” according to the White House.

“While Federal workers already have access to paid sick leave and vacation time, the government has fallen behind industry-leading companies and offers no paid time off specifically for family or parental leave,” says a White House fact sheet.

“The President’s proposal would provide Federal employees with six weeks of paid administrative leave for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child,” the White House said. “In addition, the proposal would allow parents to use sick days to care for a healthy child after a birth mother’s period of incapacitation or after an adoption.”

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the legislative proposal for administrative leave would not affect direct spending and the estimated $250 million costs of providing this benefit would be covered within agency budgets for salaries and expenses and fit within discretionary funding caps. OMB said there is no cost associated with the presidential memorandum regarding advancing sick leave.

Federal agencies already may advance sick leave to employees for a variety of reasons, including pregnancy, childbirth and adoption. The memorandum essentially removes agency discretion to deny an employee’s requests within the limits of the law. Advanced sick leave allows an employee to borrow against as yet to be earned sick leave.

Janet Kopenhaver, a spokeswoman for Federally Employed Women, an organization that supports women in the government, said it “has supported a Paid Parental Leave bill for many years. The United States States is the only industrialized nation that does not have one and it is time that we join with others to provide this critical benefit and right to new parents.”

Administration officials have long advocated more liberal family leave policies, and they believe the political climate increasingly supports that.

“The truth is, the success and productivity of our workers is inextricably tied to their ability to care for their families and maintain a stable life at home. More and more employers are coming to understand this,” Valerie Jarrett, the president’s senior adviser, said in a message posted on LinkedIn. “And voters get it too — from Massachusetts to Oakland, they have been showing their overwhelming bipartisan support for policies allowing workers to earn paid sick days.”

American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr. applauded Obama’s action, saying: “This proposal helps narrow a gaping hole in the benefits offered to federal employees, who currently receive no paid leave upon the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. Instead, federal workers must use their own vacation or sick days.”

READ MORE ON HEALTHY FAMILIES ACT :  Obama to propose seven days paid sick leave for workers