House Passes Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act and Green Amendment Supporting Low-Income Workers

Jun 4, 2009 Issues: Labor

(Washington, DC)--Today, theHouse of Representatives passed H.R. 626, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, which provides a minimum of  four weeks of paid parental leave time for federal employees on the occasion of childbirth or adoption.  The bill, which passed by a 258-154 vote, included an amendment proposed by Congressman Al Green that ensures that the needs of lower-income workers are taken into consideration during implementation of the bill.

Currently, federal employees receive 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave time in the event of childbirth or adoption through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act provides that four of those twelve weeks of leave time will be paid leave time.  The bill also allows the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to increase the amount of paid parental leave provided to up to eight weeks after considering a variety of factors.  Congressman Al Green’s amendment directs the OPM to consider the impact of increased paid parental leave on lower-income and economically disadvantaged workers and their children, along with the other considerations that were already in the bill, while evaluating whether to increase the amount of paid parental leave given to federal employees.

“Paid parental leave is a fundamental element of a healthy workplace and it allows working parents to spend adequate time caring for and bonding with their newborns, which is crucial in children’s social and cognitive development,” Congressman Al Green said.  “Paid parental leave is, though, especially important for lower-income families who are vulnerable to falling into poverty or becoming unable to put food on the table.”

The National Partnership of Women & Families said, in support of Congressman Green’s amendment, “Especially in this economy, we believe it is critical that the Office of Personnel Management consider the impact on lower-income and economically disadvantaged employees and their children when determining whether to increase the amount of paid parental leave offered to federal workers.”

Twenty-five percent of all poverty spells in the United States begin with the birth of a child.  Meanwhile, 78 percent of employees who qualify for unpaid FMLA leave and need to take the leave do not do so because they cannot afford to lose a paycheck.  Congressman Al Green argued that these statistics demonstrated the need to take lower-income workers into specific consideration when evaluating whether to increase the amount of paid leave provided.

“By passing my amendment, the House has stood up for hardworking low-income employees who simply want to do their jobs and have the ability to care for their children,” Congressman Al Green said.  “My amendment strengthens an already outstanding bill that reflects our commitment to family values and that helps working families struggling to make ends meet.  This bill is a down payment on our commitment to creating healthy workplaces that allow employees to keep their families strong at the same time that they keep their families’ finances strong.”