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Sen. Schatz Introduces Bill To Provide Family & Medical Paid Leave for Federal Employees

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US Sen. Brian Schatz. Courtesy photo.

US Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) today introduced new legislation to expand federal paid leave to include 12 weeks of family and medical leave.

“The current public health crisis has shown us why it’s so important to have strong paid leave policies, but our current laws are still forcing federal workers to make the impossible choice between caring for their families and keeping their jobs,” Sen. Schatz said in a news release. “Our bill will provide federal workers with 12 weeks of paid leave, giving them the time they need to take care of their own health and their loved ones.”

Currently, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees in the private sector can take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a newborn or an ill family member without fear of losing their jobs, but that leave is unpaid. For federal employees, while parental leave is paid due to the passage of the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act in 2019, family and medical leave continues to be unpaid.


Studies have shown that providing paid leave for federal employees would save the government at least $50 million annually in turnover and replacement costs. With federal agencies struggling to recruit and retain young talent, family-friendly policies are necessary to maintain a robust workforce. Just 6 percent of the federal workforce is under age 30, while roughly 40 percent of the workforce is eligible to retire within the next three years, according to the news release.

The Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act will guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave for federal employees in all instances covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, which include:

  • To care for the employeeʻs spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employee’s position;
  • Qualifying exigency arising because a spouse, child or parent of the employee is on covered active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the Armed Forces.

Schatz’s bill is co-sponsored by US Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

The Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, National Federation of Federal Employees, NARFE, AAUW, National Association of Letter Carriers, American Postal Workers Union and the National Partnership for Women and Families.


“[This legislation] would improve quality of life for workers while making the federal government a more competitive and attractive employer,” said Everett Kelley, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees. “On behalf of the 700,000 government employees AFGE represents, I thank Senator Schatz for introducing this legislation as a companion to the House bill introduced in January by House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney.”

Tony Reardon, National President of National Treasury Employees Union, said: “When a medical crisis hits home, the federal workers we represent need some assurance that they can take time off without sacrificing income, and a paid family leave program would provide that assurance. Too often federal employees have limited leave and are forced to take unpaid leave when they or a family member have an extended illness, so NTEU is strongly committed to helping Sen. Schatz and other allies pass a paid family leave program into law.”

Matt Biggs, Secretary-Treasurer/Legislative Director for IFPTE International, said: “Should it become law, this much needed legislation will correct this glaring problem by allowing for paid time off to care for themselves, or close relatives who are in need of care due to illness. It will give federal workers peace of mind knowing that they will not have to suffer significant financial sacrifice during these kinds of difficult situations. Our union is proud to endorse this legislation, and work in support of it throughout the halls of Congress,” 


Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families, added: “Strengthening the nation means strengthening the more than two million public servants across the country, especially as we continue to deal with the health and economic issues caused by this pandemic. I thank Senator Brian Schatz for introducing the Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act to ensure that the federal government has equitable workplace policies that prioritize families.”


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