President Trump has signed into law (P.L. 116-92) the annual DoD authorization bill containing a provision for paid parental leave for federal employees, with guidance to interpret the exact impact in the federal workplace likely ahead.

Addressing the full range issues could require a formal rule-making process which can take a number of months. There is time, however, since the 12 weeks per 12 months of paid leave will only apply for purposes related to births, adoptions or foster placements after September 30.


The new law contains some language that mirrors that of the current unpaid parental leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Current policies on unpaid leave that presumably will continue to apply to paid leave include that: the employee must have completed 12 months of employment to take it; the time need not be used consecutively but any unused amount is forfeited after 12 months; employees need not use annual or sick leave first; any time used in parental leave reduces the amount of unpaid leave available for personal of family medical purposes; and an employee taking the leave must agree to work for the agency for at least 12 weeks after returning or otherwise refund the government for its share of health insurance premiums during the leave period.

The new law meanwhile does not address eligibility to use the leave, presumably again leaving current policies in place to apply to the upcoming paid leave as they do to the current unpaid leave.

The OPM handbook on the FMLA says that while both the employee and spouse (regardless of gender) are eligible, “The definition of spouse for FMLA purposes is not as broad as the definition of family member for sick leave and leave sharing purposes [which includes domestic partners meeting certain qualifications]. Therefore, an employee cannot take FMLA leave to care for a same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partner who gives birth to a child unless the domestic partner is a common law spouse according to the State of residence.”

More on the Family and Medical Leave Act at ask.FEDweek.com