The House Oversight and Reform Committee has approved, although with only Democratic support, a bill (HR-564) to entitle federal employees to paid leave for all the purposes covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
That would extend the authority in place for employees of agencies except the Postal Service to substitute paid time for unpaid time available for parental purposes under the FMLA. The bill would allow substituting paid time for the other purposes for which the FMLA provides unpaid leave, including personal medical conditions or those of a spouse, child, or parent; or for certain purposes related to military duty of a spouse, child, or parent.
Under the bill, the allowable reasons for taking parental leave would be expanded and all the paid leave benefits would be extended to Postal Service employees—who were excluded from the late-2019 law creating paid parental leave on grounds that it would be subject to labor-management negotiations there. The maximum of 12 weeks over 12 months allowed for all purposes under the FMLA would remain—with leave used for one purpose reducing the amount available for another—as would the 12 months of work requirement before eligibility.
During committee consideration, partisan differences over the proposal that have existed since its first introduction earlier this year. Democrats argued that the measure would benefit employees in difficult personal situations and also the government, by making it competitive with private sector companies already offering such benefits.
Republicans argued that the federal leave entitlements in general already are comparable if not superior to those of the private sector. They also raised concerns about the potential costs, questioning a Congressional Budget Office estimate of only $53 million over 10 years and noting the estimate does not include the impact on the cash-strapped Postal Service.
The bill now is ready for a vote in the full House but also might be incorporated into a broader measure where chances of final enactment could be greater than as a stand-alone bill.