Federal employees would be eligible for six weeks of paid leave for purposes related to the birth or adoption of a child, under legislation introduced Monday by a group of House Democrats.

President Obama two weeks ago called on Congress to enact that benefit–which would be paid “administrative” leave that would not be charged against either sick leave or annual leave time–while separately ordering agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave for those purposes under existing authority.

Currently, federal employees are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave and can substitute paid sick and annual leave for part or all that unpaid time. Agencies additionally may advance leave for those purposes to employees who have accumulated an insufficient amount; the memo essentially removed the discretion they had over whether to grant such requests.


Federal workers would have paid leave to care for new children under a Democratic bill in the House. (The Image Bank/Getty Images)

Federal employees receive 13 days of sick leave a year with no limit on how much they can build up. They also get between 13 and 26 days of annual leave per year, depending on their length of service, but generally can carry no more than 30 days of it from one year to the next. Advanced leave amounts to borrowing against leave to be earned in the future.

Main sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) has proposed bills to provide paid parental leave to federal employees since 2000. The previous version would have provided four weeks, with the Office of Personnel Management getting discretion to add up to four more.

“You can almost count on one hand the number of countries that don’t provide paid leave for the birth of a child, and the United States is part of the club,” Maloney said on introducing the bill.

The House passed her earlier proposal in 2008 and 2009 while under Democratic control, but the Senate did not act. Paid parental leave for federal workers has not advanced in the House under Republican control.

“With only 7 percent of federal employees currently under age 30 and with more than 30 percent of the federal workforce eligible to retire in the next three years, the government must offer comparable benefits to compete with the private sector for top talent,” Richard G. Thissen, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said in a statement.

“This bill will go a long way toward creating a more family-friendly workplace, which is needed by America’s workers. In addition to reducing turnover, paid parental leave can lead to increased productivity, better morale, and reduced absenteeism,” National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement.

Other sponsors include Reps. Gerald Connolly, Don Beyer and Bobby Scott of Virginia, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District, all Democrats.

The Office of Management and Budget has said that creating six weeks of paid parental leave would cost $250 million annually, a cost it said would be covered within agency budgets for salaries and expenses and would fit within discretionary funding caps.

Cost estimates of the earlier bills at the time they passed the House put their cost in the $200 million-$220 million range, including an assumption of a 50 percent chance that the total would rise from four to eight weeks.