President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum Thursday directing agencies to provide six weeks of advanced sick leave for federal employees to care for their newborn child.
“Men and women both need time to care for their families and should have access to workplace flexibilities that help them succeed at work and at home,” the memorandum said. “Offering family leave and other workplace flexibilities to parents can help achieve the goals of recruiting and retaining talent, lowering costly worker turnover, increasing employee engagement, boosting employee morale, and ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce. Yet, the United States lags behind almost every other country in ensuring some form of paid parental leave to its Federal workforce; we are the only developed country in the world without it.”
The memorandum offers the chance for mothers to recuperate after giving birth, even if they haven’t earned enough sick leave. It will also provide leave for spouses and partners to help out during the recuperation.
In addition, the same sick leave is extended to both parents who are in the process of adopting a child. Employees who are bringing a foster child into their home will also be eligible for advanced annual leave.
In addition, the memorandum will allow paid sick-leave for agency employees caring for ill family members and for other sick-leave eligible purposes.
“The Presidential Memorandum directs agencies to consider a benefit some agencies already offer — help finding, and in some cases providing, emergency backup care for children, seniors, and adults with disabilities that parents can use when they need to go to work but their regular care is not available,” a White House fact sheet said. “Some agencies provide this benefit through their Employee Assistance Program, and it can help parents with a temporary need for safe care for their children.”
The memorandum is part of a larger presidential initiative to help working families across the country.
The President called on Congress to pass legislation allowing working Americans the ability to accrue up to seven paid sick days annually. He also proposed using more than $2 billion in new funds to convince states to develop their own paid family and medical leave programs, with the Department of Labor spending $1 million in existing funds to develop program feasibility studies.
Federal employee unions applaud extension of parental leave
Richard G. Thissen, president of the National Active and Retirees Federal Employees Association (NARFE), praised the President for his decision to advance six weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees.
“More and more private employers around the world are offering parents paid time off so they can take care of their newborns,” Thissen said. “As a result, federal agencies can’t compete with the private sector for talented younger workers who, if electing federal employment, ould have to use accrued vacation or sick time, which may be only a few days, or forgo pay in order to take time off after the birth of a child. his is an even larger problem for federal agencies facing a substantial retirement wave. With more than 30 percent of the federal workforce eligible to retire in the next three years, the federal government must offer comparable benefits to compete with the private sector for top talent.”
American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. also voiced his organization’s support of the President’s action in a statement.
“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,” Cox wrote. “Instead, federal workers must use their own vacation or sick days.”
Thissen described the President’s actions as “a good start,” but NARFE urged Congress to pass the legislation President Obama was proposing.
“According to the Congressional Budget Office, passage of this legislation would not increase the federal budget deficit,” he said. “This commonsense piece of legislation should be acted on swiftly to codify paid parental leave into law.”
Colleen M. Kelley, national president of the National Treasury Employee Union, characterized the memorandum as a move to create a more family-friendly work environment in federal offices.
The Office of Personnel Management will have 90 days to issue guidance to agencies on implementing the new leave policies laid out in the memorandum.