Parental Leave for Federal Government Employees Advances the Fight for Paid Leave

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families

“The inclusion of paid parental leave for federal workers in the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a win for our federal workforce and their families. We applaud the provision’s champions, Chairman Adam Smith, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan and Sen. Brian Schatz for fighting for the well-being and economic security of federal workers. We also appreciate the strong efforts by Leader Charles Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Jack Reed in the Senate.

This measure promotes economic justice for women and women of color. More than 40 percent of federal workers are women and nearly 1 in 5 (400,000 total) are women of color. The racial wealth gap and other racial disparities make it more difficult for families of color to save for and absorb the effects of a serious personal or family medical issue — including the birth or adoption of a new child. Ensuring that they do not have to worry about getting paid while taking time off to welcome a new child or recover from childbirth is critical to moving toward equity in the federal workforce.

Congress’ bipartisan approval of this policy is yet another example of the incredible momentum of paid leave in our country. Just six years after the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act was first introduced in Congress, six additional states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide policies, voters across the political spectrum are in near-unanimous agreement that we need a comprehensive national policy, and a growing list of employers have established voluntary policies. Now the nation’s largest employer can be added to that list.

We are optimistic that this momentum will result in a strong, inclusive paid family and medical leave policy that covers all working people. While paid leave for new parents is a critical benefit, more than three quarters of people taking unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) do so to care for their own serious medical issue or a loved one who is not a new child. All working people need time to care for themselves and their loved ones no matter where they live, their employer or the nature of their job.

We continue to call on lawmakers to support and pass comprehensive paid family and medical leave for all workers who need to care for themselves or a loved one.”

About the National Partnership

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.

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