Government affairs

Legislative Updates

House committee holds hearing on paid family and medical leave for federal employees

On June 24, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on the Comprehensive Paid Leave for Federal Employees Act (H.R. 564). This bill, which was introduced by Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in January, would provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for federal employees, including Postal Service employees. This paid leave could be used for personal illness, caring for a family member, or time off work needed when a family member is leaving or returning from active military duty. Federal employees are currently entitled to 12 weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for such reasons, but it is not guaranteed paid leave.

“This is a policy that is long overdue for the federal workforce and for our nation,” said Chairwoman Maloney in her opening statement. “The federal government has the opportunity to lead the way on paid leave and fostering a family-friendly workplace. While providing access to paid parental leave is critically important and long overdue, it's just as important to provide access to paid family and medical leave too.”

The hearing included five witnesses: Lelaine Bigelow, Interim Vice President for Economic Justice and Congressional Relations, National Partnership for Women & Families; Hadley Heath Manning, Director of Policy, Independent Women’s Forum; Everett Kelley, National President, American Federation of Government Employees; Vicki Shabo, Senior Fellow, Paid Leave Policy and Strategy, Better Life Lab, on behalf of New America; Eric Sorkin, Co-Owner and Chief Executive Officer, Runamok Maple.

The hearing grew tense at times with many Republican representatives expressing opposition to the bill. “Oversight Democrats have called a hearing on enhanced work perks for federal bureaucrats,” Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY) said. “That’s right, more benefits for federal employees who already enjoy job security and a lavish set of benefits not afforded to most American workers.”

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) echoed the Ranking Member’s remarks emphasizing the unknown costs of such a policy. “We're looking at ways to get federal employees even more time off on the backs of the American taxpayers,” he said. “Combined with federal holidays and annual leave, federal employees now only have to work about eight months out of the year.”

During questioning, Kelley refuted this claim stating that it is unlikely that all federal employees would fall into a category allowing them to utilize the full 12 weeks of paid leave. “Every federal employee would not be able to take four months of leave,” he said. “That's not what this is all about and to propose that would be a lie.”

Democratic representatives emphasized that paid medical and family leave policy could help recruit and retain the federal workforce while keeping employees safe. “We don’t want people going to work when they’re sick, and you would have thought COVID-19 would have taught us that,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD).

In response to a question from Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) regarding why it is important to establish a federal paid leave program that covers diverse needs, Bigelow said, “Comprehensive paid leave improves health outcomes for those who need care and prevents people from having to make impossible choices between being there for their families…and their jobs and income. As the workforce ages, a comprehensive paid leave policy is just smart economics to ensure older workers can continue working and can manage work with caring for an aging parent or loved one.”

The partisan tensions surrounding the bill do not give it an easy route through Congress. A mirroring Senate bill, S. 1158, was introduced in April. NALC will continue to monitor this legislation. 

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