Certain employees who were not previously eligible for FMLA leave may become immediately eligible based on a change in statute. Image: Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Shutterstock.com

OPM has told agencies that broadened eligibility for federal employees to take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act is now in effect, as is eligibility to take paid parental leave as a substitute for that unpaid time.

A memo on chcoc.gov carries out a provision in a defense spending bill, effective as of its enactment last December 23, affecting eligibility for leave under the FMLA. Eligibility for unpaid leave, and by extension under the paid parental leave provision, begins only after one year of federal employment; the defense measure made military service under honorable conditions creditable toward that time.

“This means that certain employees who were not previously eligible for FMLA leave may become immediately eligible based on this statutory change. Employees who become immediately eligible for FMLA leave may also become immediately eligible for paid parental leave if they otherwise qualify for such leave based on the birth or placement of a child since paid parental leave is used via substitution for FMLA leave,” it says.

It notes, though, that “the statutory change affects eligibility for FMLA leave and paid parental leave on a prospective basis beginning on December 22, 2023; it does not provide for retroactive eligibility.”

OPM told agencies to notify their employees with prior military service who had not met the 12-month service requirement under the prior, more restrictive, policy that they contact their HR offices or other designated contacts to determine whether they now meet the service requirement.

“This is especially important for employees who have recently had or will soon have a child born or placed with them for adoption or foster care since under FMLA an employee’s entitlement to FMLA leave with substitution of paid parental leave may only be used during the 12-month period beginning on the date of the birth or placement of the employee’s child,” it said.

The memo gives as an example an employee who had a child last July 1 and previously was ineligible for FMLA leave and therefor paid parental leave. Although that employee is now eligible, the parental leave is available only until one year after the qualifying event, which would end June 30.

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