OPM has characterized the changes the administration wants in the upcoming paid parental leave policy as only “clarifications” and has said that the policy is on track to be available with the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child after September 30 as the law envisions.
OPM made those comments in a letter responding to the NTEU union, which had questioned a set of proposals the administration made in its budget request to amend the late-2019 law changing from unpaid to paid time the up to 12 weeks of parental leave.
One of those proposals would expand the entitlement to several categories of employees outside the Title 5 body of federal personnel law who were left out of the law as written—most numerously, the FAA, Title 38 medical personnel and TSA employees other than screeners (who were included even though they are outside Title 5).
Bills to do the same are pending in Congress with bipartisan support.
More controversial were proposals to: allow the leave to be used only after the birth or placement (the current unpaid leave can be used either before or after, within a year of the event); limit the availability of leave in foster care placements on the reasoning that some of those placements are short-term; and offset the 12 weeks against any paid parental leave available through agency-specific policies, such as the six weeks offered by the FDIC and the SEC.
The NTEU had said those would amount to “restrictions to paid parental leave that were not envisioned by Congress and are certainly not acceptable to the federal employees who have waited decades for this benefit.”
In its response, OPM said that “as OPM senior career subject matter experts began to prepare the draft regulation necessary for implementation of the new benefit, they determined that OPM needed clarification from Congress on a number of issues to ensure that the benefit could be implemented in a manner consistent with the intent of the legislation.”
The administration’s proposal amounted to a request that “Congress make a determination as to whether or not there is a need to provide greater clarity on specific enacted provisions,” it said. No move has been made in Congress to enact such changes into law, however.
OPM added that it is “committed to ensuring that federal government employees will be able to utilize this new benefit by October 1 . . . Your letter could lead federal employees to believe that this new important benefit is in jeopardy. That is simply wrong.”