A Big Step Forward: Parental Leave for Federal Employees


More than two million American families are getting some good news in 2020. A provision safely tucked inside the National Defense Authorization Act called The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act provides federal employees with up to 12 weeks paid parental leave, effective October 1.

As it stands today, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) gives federal workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period. 

But this new provision provides 12 weeks of paid leave to both mothers and fathers of newborns, newly adopted children, or foster children. The employee must be in federal service for one year to be eligible for this new benefit. Additionally, they’d need to return to work for at least the length of leave taken or they will be responsible for paying that amount back to their employer.

Not everyone is included. Those who work for The Federal Aviation Administration and The Transportation Security Administration will not be eligible for this benefit, though there is legislation being introduced to change that. 

Since the government is the largest employer in the country, many advocates hope that their adoption of a parental leave policy will set an example for U.S. employers. 

“By providing this benefit for 2.1 million federal employees,” says Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, “not only can the government compete with those in the private sector who already provide it, but also hopefully spur more businesses to follow suit.”