D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), left, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) at an event in New York City on June 17. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Women's Forum of New York)

Federal employees who take leave for parental or other family-related purposes — time that currently is unpaid — would receive their regular salaries for that leave instead, under a bill that has passed the House.

The provision changes from unpaid to paid the time available to most federal employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act. That law provides 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child; care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition; the employee’s own serious health condition; or for certain reasons related to military duty of a spouse, child or parent.

“The federal government can and should be a model employer for the private sector in this area,” main sponsor Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said when the House earlier added the provision to a defense-spending bill that the House passed on Friday.

Some federal employees substitute paid vacation time or sick leave for at least part of their time off work for purposes covered by the law, although others — including those hired relatively recently — may not have much paid leave available to use.

“No federal employee should have to choose between caring for a loved one and receiving a paycheck,” American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“Paid family leave is a smart, pro-family benefit that will help the government compete with the private sector for the young and highly-skilled employees our agencies desperately need,” said National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon.

"With the federal workforce aging, recruitment of young workers is more important than ever, and offering paid family leave is a good step toward meeting these challenges,” said National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association President Ken Thomas.

The paid leave provision became part of the bill when the House took a procedural vote Wednesday to consider the bill. The Senate recently approved a counterpart bill that does not address federal employee leave policies.

If ultimately enacted into law, the parental leave provision would take effect with births or adoptions beginning Oct. 1, 2020.

The House had approved proposals to provide four weeks of paid family leave time in both 2008 and 2009, but those measures did not advance further. Since then, similar bills have been introduced but have not advanced even in the House. In 2015, President Barack Obama required agencies to generally approve employee requests for advanced vacation or sick leave for family purposes.