Paid parental leave for feds

Just wanted to give a heads up that HR 5781, which would provide federal employees with 4 weeks of paid parental leave, is headed to the House floor for a vote next week.   (If you read the bill text at that link, it will say it’s 8 weeks of paid leave, but it was cut to 4 weeks in committee.)  Outside of the DC area, this probably hasn’t gotten much attention, so it’s worth dropping your Representative a line to encourage support.

I used to be a fed, and lots of people were shocked when I told them that I didn’t get any paid maternity leave.  The feds generally provide good benefits, so everyone assumes that they provide parental leave.  They don’t — and they don’t have any sort of short-term disability program, either — although you can use any annual leave (vacation) or sick leave that you’ve accrued.  The problem is that while long-term federal employees often have months and months of sick leave accrued up, most of the people who have babies aren’t long-term employees (since the federal government hires very few 12 year olds).  By hoarding my leave days carefully, and working up to the day I went into labor, I was able to take 12 weeks off with pay when I had D.  When I had N, less than 3 years later, there was no way I could have saved up enough leave — and I was better off than most second-time parents, as T was staying home with D, so I didn’t have to use up sick days when he was sick.

So, this bill both makes parenting significantly more manageable for federal employees, and also puts the federal government on record that parental leave is important.  And it even has a chance of being passed in both Houses.

5 Responses to “Paid parental leave for feds”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for the note and links about this. I thought the whole issue had been dropped already.
    I am a fed now, and have 2 kids already (and not planning more), but I was lucky with stretching out my paid leave, using saved leave, donated leave, and having a stay at home husband. I’ve seen the total lack of paid parental leave be a huge problem for other women (mostly new moms) who are relatively new to federal service.
    –D.

  2. Grace Says:

    Yes, aren’t we “lucky” to get a measly 4-8 weeks of paid leave while we perform such a valuable service to society at an enormous biological, emotional and financial cost to ourselves?
    Do you think it would be easier to get political support for giving federal employees one more entitlement that most working mothers don’t get? How about agitating for benefits for all? It shouldn’t be an accident of where you work or where you live. The biological and financial toll is the same.
    Read my fantasy out of office message.
    Have you seen those out of office automatic email replies that apologize for staying home to take care of a sick child? This is my fantasy auto reply: I am out of the office this morning with a sick future tax-payer; I will reply to your email as soon as I can. Rather than thank me when you collect Social Security and Medicare, please give me your help and understanding now.

  3. Grace Says:

    You can read the rest of the out of office message musings:
    http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2008/01/insufficient-margin.html
    I posted a response to feds and maternity leave. I am “lucky” to live in CA because our mandatory state disability plan pays mothers 6-8 weeks after the birth up to a salary limit (about half of FICA’s ceiling). My employer subsidizes up to my full salary (many don’t).
    It shouldn’t be a question of luck. We need to have a frank discussion about this complex subject. If everyone made the rational economic children, our birthrate would be virtually nil. Is that healthy or desirable?
    My mommy manifesto:
    http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2008/05/lets-unionize-motherhood.html

  4. Heather Says:

    Wow. Maternity leave here is a full twelve months, and a lot of women I know are taking the full leave.

  5. dave.s. Says:

    We did very nicely as feds with our first two kids: we were in our mid 40s and had been on the job for 15 years, so we had loads of sick and annual leave. For someone whose kids come earlier (and, earlier is better! I think – most of the other soccer dads are a lot more limber than I) it wouldn’t be so good, though we do have a young woman in my office who is taking quite a long unpaid leave right now. The feds have a culture of being family friendly, in my experience – very willing to give additional unpaid leave after the amount of paid leave they have to give you is gone. Our third came after my wife had left the feds and gone private, not so good on the paid leave but again very flexible on the unpaid.
    Much more important to our feeling that we could go ahead was feeling happy and settled in our marriage, and owning a house. I saw an article in the Guardian the other day
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/11/spain.france talking about young Europeans seeing themselves “…forever poorer than their parents…” – and noted it in your falling behind post comments. I think it’s relevant here – these are folks whose parental leave arrangements are far more generous than ours, yet they are not having, or are having only one, child.

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