Schatz Introduces New Legislation To Provide Family And Medical Paid Leave For Federal Employees

Under Current Law, Federal Workers Who Take Leave To Care For Their Own Health Or A Loved One Are Left Without Pay


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) today introduced new legislation to expand federal paid leave to include 12 weeks of family and medical leave.

“The current public health crisis has shown us why it’s so important to have strong paid leave policies, but our current laws are still forcing federal workers to make the impossible choice between caring for their families and keeping their jobs,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill will provide federal workers with 12 weeks of paid leave, giving them the time they need to take care of their own health and their loved ones.”

Currently, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees in the private sector can take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a newborn or an ill family member without fear of losing their jobs, but that leave is unpaid. For federal employees, while parental leave is paid due to the passage of the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act in 2019, family and medical leave continues to be unpaid.

Studies have shown that providing paid leave for federal employees would save the government at least $50 million annually in turnover and replacement costs. With federal agencies struggling to recruit and retain young talent, family-friendly policies are necessary to maintain a robust workforce. Just 6 percent of the federal workforce is under the age of 30, while roughly 40 percent of the workforce is eligible to retire within the next three years.

The Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act will guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave for federal employees in all instances covered by the FMLA. Specifically, the bill guarantees 12 weeks of paid leave in the following cases: 

  • In order to care for the spouse, or a child, or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, child, or parent has a serious health condition;
  • Because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employee’s position; and
  • Because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, or child, or parent of the employee is on covered active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the Armed Forces.

Schatz’s bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, National Federation of Federal Employees, NARFE, AAUW, National Association of Letter Carriers, American Postal Workers Union, and the National Partnership for Women and Families.

“Providing federal employees with 12 weeks of paid leave to address all circumstances currently covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act would improve quality of life for workers while making the federal government a more competitive and attractive employer,” Everett Kelley, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees. “On behalf of the 700,000 government employees AFGE represents, I thank Senator Schatz for introducing this legislation as a companion to the House bill introduced in January by House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney. We look forward to working with them and the other congressional cosponsors to pass this important legislation into law and ensure no federal worker ever has to choose between a paycheck and caring for their family.”

“When a medical crisis hits home, the federal workers we represent need some assurance that they can take time off without sacrificing income, and a paid family leave program would provide that assurance. Too often federal employees have limited leave and are forced to take unpaid leave when they or a family member have an extended illness, so NTEU is strongly committed to helping Sen. Schatz and other allies pass a paid family leave program into law. Paid family leave for federal employees builds on the paid parental leave policy and is a smart, pro-family, pro-worker policy that would help attract people to federal service, and we commend Sen. Schatz for sponsoring this important legislation,” said Tony Reardon, National President of National Treasury Employees Union.

“IFPTE applauds Senator Schatz for authoring the Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act. As it stands now, federal workers are permitted up to 12 weeks of excused time off in order to care for sick children, spouses, or even themselves. The problem is that this time off comes without a paycheck, forcing these workers to choose between paying their bills, or caring for themselves or an ailing close family member. This is a decision no worker should have to make. Should it become law, this much needed legislation will correct this glaring problem by allowing for paid time off to care for themselves, or close relatives who are in need of care due to illness. It will give federal workers peace of mind knowing that they will not have to suffer significant financial sacrifice during these kinds of difficult situations. Our union is proud to endorse this legislation, and work in support of it throughout the halls of Congress,” said Matt Biggs, Secretary-Treasurer/Legislative Director for IFPTE International.

“For too long, federal employees have had to make the impossible choice between caring for themselves and their families and their income,” said Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “This legislation builds on the paid parental leave that federal employees gained last October thanks to the persistence of our Congressional champions, and would provide access to paid leave for family caregiving and serious personal medical needs so federal employees no longer have to make this choice. Strengthening the nation means strengthening the more than two million public servants across the country, especially as we continue to deal with the health and economic issues caused by this pandemic. I thank Senator Brian Schatz for introducing the Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act to ensure that the federal government has equitable workplace policies that prioritize families.” 

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