June 24, 2021

Tim Kauffman

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Expanding Parental Leave Benefit to Cover All Family Leave Needs Is Critical for Worker Retention, Recruitment, and Morale, Union Says

House, Senate legislation would give federal workers 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for themselves or family members or for service-connected issues

WASHINGTON – In testimony delivered today to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley stressed the critical need to pass legislation that would provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid family leave.

“I have heard countless stories from AFGE members who have had to make the impossible choice between a paycheck or taking care of a loved one or themselves before they are ready to return to work,” Kelley said in his written testimony. “Employees should have the right to safely recover from illness, take care of loved ones and know they can support their families.”

Legislation introduced in the House in January (HR 564) and in the Senate in April (S 1158) would give federal workers 12 weeks of paid leave to care for seriously ill or injured family members, to tend to an employee’s own serious health condition, or to address issues stemming from a family member’s current or recent military service. It would build upon legislation enacted in 2019 that provided federal workers with 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a new child, effective Oct. 1, 2020.

“While this was a huge victory for federal workers, it is time for Congress to go further and implement paid family leave for all federal workers,” Kelley said.

Kelley also addressed those in Congress who have raised objections to the cost of providing paid leave to federal workers. A study looking at implementation of paid family leave in New Jersey found that companies said the costs were modest relative to costs associated with employee turnover.

“This is a small cost compared to the high cost of hiring new employees due to high turnover in the federal government due to lack of comprehensive benefits,” Kelley said.

“Paid family leave will undoubtedly improve recruitment and retention of talented workers who would choose to work for other employers who provide such leave,” he added. “The federal government currently reimburses federal contractors and grantees for the cost of providing paid family leave to their workers. Surely if such practice is affordable and reasonable for contractors and grantees, federal employees should be eligible for similar treatment.”

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