OPM has issued guidance on changes to the paid parental leave authority that became law when Congress overrode President Trump’s veto of the annual defense authorization bill revising that authority.

That measure most notably expanded the authority—to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave within the 12 months following a birth, adoption or foster placement occurring last October 1 or afterward—to certain classes of employees initially left out because the law applied only to agencies under the Title 5 body of federal personnel law. Those who had been excluded primarily were TSA employees other than screeners, FAA employees and Title 38 medical personnel, along with several smaller categories. Postal Service employees remain excluded, though, because paid parental leave would be a negotiable topic at USPS.


The OPM guidance says the new law also made some technical changes regarding eligibility. While the benefit applies only to those who had been in federal government jobs covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act for at least 12 months, the prior law had limited that to coverage only under Title 5 FMLA. Under the revisions, coverage under non-Title 5 FMLA also counts, including work at the Postal Service and “nonappropriated fund” entities.

“Thus, virtually all types of civilian federal service (including employment on a temporary or intermittent basis) are now qualifying for purposes of applying the FMLA eligibility requirement for 12 months of qualifying service,” OPM said.

However, it added adding that those currently employed on a temporary or intermittent basis remain ineligible, and the change “does not affect the FMLA leave eligibility rule applicable during periods of time before January 1, 2021.”

“However, this change does mean that some employees with Federal service previously treated as nonqualifying may become immediately eligible for FMLA leave on January 1, 2021, which could also trigger immediate eligibility for paid parental leave (substituted for qualifying FMLA leave) for otherwise eligible employees who had a child born or placed on or after October 1, 2020,” it said.

“For example, if an employee had a child born on November 15, 2020, but lacked 12 months of qualifying service under the old rule, but has 12 months of qualifying service under the new rule when it takes effect on January 1, 2021, the employee could prospectively use FMLA leave based on the birth event by making an election to do so on or after January 1, 2021, and then could substitute up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave during the period ending on November 14, 2021,” it said.

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