The House has approved a bill containing language to turn the annual 12 weeks of leave available to federal employees per 12 months under the Family and Medical Leave Act from unpaid time to paid time.

That change, accepted as amendment to the annual DoD authorization bill (HR-2500), represents the most significant effort in more than a decade to provide paid family leave without charge to any other form of paid leave.


Under the measure, the same employees who are now eligible for the unpaid leave—generally meaning those with at least one year of service—could take the paid time for the same purposes for which they now may use unpaid time, including for birth, adoption and foster care placement, to care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious condition, for a personal condition that makes the employee unable to work, and for needs arising from the fact that the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is on, or has been called to, active military duty.

At present, employees may use sick leave and/or annual leave instead of unpaid leave for such purposes although many don’t have enough to cover all, or even much, of the period they need to be away from work and must go on leave without pay.

The pay for parental leave entitlement would take effect for births, adoptions and foster placements occurring after September 30 of next year; the pay entitlement for other purposes presumably would take effect on the bill’s enactment, although the amendment does not specify that. Any portion of the available paid time authorized for a certain purpose that is not used within 12 months would expire.

The OPM would have the flexibility to increase the amount to up to 16 weeks.

Separately, the House has scheduled a vote this week on a bill (HR-3494) providing a similar benefit but only at intelligence community agencies.