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NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Washington Post Column Addresses Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Washington Post Column Addresses Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees
[March 7, 2008]

Washington Post reporter Stephen Barr on Friday profiled a Joint Economic Committee hearing on a bill (HR 3799) that would provide eight weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees after the birth of an infant or adoption of a child.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the committee, is sponsoring the bill. Maloney, who hopes to make the federal government a role model for other employers, said that federal employees often have to make a choice between working and taking unpaid leave to care for a child. She added that "even the best-prepared workers face difficult choices when children need their care." Democratic staff on the committee released a report that found the federal government "lags far behind Fortune 100 companies" in offering paid parental leave. In addition, Maloney said studies have found that other industrialized countries provide more paid family leave than the U.S. does.

According to Barr, the proposal has faced resistance in Congress partly because of a lack of support from the Bush administration. The administration has said that federal employees have generous benefits -- such as paid sick leave and vacation days that can be carried over -- which can be used to care for an infant or adopted child. Nancy Kichak, an associate director at the Office of Personnel Management, at the hearing said the administration recognizes that many federal employees cannot afford to take unpaid leave to care for a child and that there is a "gap in coverage."

Kichak said that the administration does not believe that offering employees fully paid parental leave is the best way to address the situation and that OPM favors a short-term disability insurance program for employees to participate in voluntarily. OPM is working on the details of the benefit, Kichak said, adding that is estimated to cost about $40 per pay period. Kichak said that the benefit would provide income for employees who are unable to work because of childbirth, illness or a nonwork-related accident (Barr, Washington Post, 3/7).