Paid parental leave — the federal government’s turn

I’ll admit I’m glad to be back in Northeast Ohio. At least from the standpoint of my morning runs. Big difference between 56 degrees here in Akron and better than 74 degrees and high humidity in Hilton Head. I was thinking this morning that I want to start talking a little more about some of the issues I’m working on now with Corporate Voices for Working Families.

Here’s one of them: paid parental leave. It’s an important issue for working parents and families. It’s also a controversial one with many businesses, nonprofit organizations and government.

First, here comes the disclaimer. What I write — and post — on my blog doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Corporate Voices for Working Families. The reason I am saying that is I don’t intend to review with anyone what I have to say on issues or anything else for that matter. To do otherwise takes me back to the corporate gulag — and that ain’t going to happen. And I figure if I stray too far into left — or since we’re dealing with politics, right — field, someone at Corporate Voices will let me know about it.

So here goes. Corporate Voices has two interns working in its Washington office this summer: Amy Simon and Allison Keyser. Since I guess I’m still not ready to totally retire from teaching, I’ve been encouraging and helping them write blog postings.  Here’s what Amy and Allison wrote about on the issue of paid parental leave:

The federal government is the country’s largest employer, with over 2.7 million employees.

Many years ago, working for the federal government was seen as a badge of honor. But today with the lack of benefits offered to governmental employees the sheen has begun to tarnish. In the past, the federal government recruited the best and the brightest, but today these high- caliber graduates are finding employment elsewhere.

Today, with 40 percent of federal employees expecting to retire in the next 10 years, the federal government will struggle to find highly educated individuals to take their jobs if the benefits offered to the employees do not improve. In particular, the benefits regarding parental leave.

Currently, federal employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, guaranteed to them by the Family and Medical Leave Act.  However, for most employees, taking time off without pay is not economically feasible.

The lack of paid parental leave also makes it hard for federal agencies to compete with the benefits packages provided by top-tier U.S. firms.

For instance KPMG, offers 12 weeks of paid parental leave and believes that
“continuing success depends on attracting, retaining and motivating high caliber people. To put it simply, our rewards and benefits have to match or exceed what the professional marketplace is offering.”

The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, which has recently been passed in the House, guarantees that “of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act, federal employees be allowed to substitute 4 weeks of paid leave, as well as any accrued annual or sick leave for the birth or adoption of a child” according to a fact sheet provided by Representative Carolyn Maloney’s (D-New York) office.  (A post on blog, Moms Speak Up, has some additional details.)

The federal government does not offer any paid time off specifically to care for an infant or newly adopted child, putting the United States in the extreme minority of industrialized countries.

This bill is long over due and is vital to the continued success of the federal government.

By Amy Simon and Allison Keyser.

Amy is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish and international studies at Penn State University.

Allison is a senior majoring in psychology and women’s studies at Dickinson College.

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4 responses to “Paid parental leave — the federal government’s turn

  1. Rob –

    With all due respect, who is going to pay for this parental leave for government employees? The taxpayers? So, is this an argument that people who the federal government guarantees only UNPAID leave must pay for federal employees who get PAID leave? I don’t see the fairness or equality in that.

    In addition, the statement that federal jobs have subpar benefits is questionable at best. Is there any research the backs up this statement? With the job losses and downsizing going on in the private sector, federal jobs are quite appealing these days. Accrued sick and vacation leave is practically non-existent n the private sector!

    Not surprising that this idea comes from inside the beltway. Outside D.C., it would only add to the growing disillusionment lower- and middle-class Americans feel toward their government and its largesse.

  2. Tim,

    Hi. I appreciate your comment — and I certainly can’t dispute your point about cost. I’ve just reached the stage where I agree with Thomas Friedman’s NYT view: We should be nation-building in this country and not everywhere else in the world. I just see this as one need among a host of them involving working parents and workers in general in the U.S. these days.

    My hope with this parental leave issue is that it would move from the federal government (if enacted) to others in business, nonprofits, etc. But I’m an optimist.

    And there is a cost to everything. I saw in the Akron Beacon Journal this morning that the city of Akron is offering Bridgestone tax incentives to keep its research offices here. Why? What’s the cost of that to Akron taxpayers?

    Anyway, I find these issues — and conversations — a lot more interesting than the latest trends in podcasting, etc.

    Hope you are doing well.

    And I hope you’ll disagree (or agree) with me often on these topics. The more we as a nation discuss the merits and drawbacks of social/economic issues — the better. IMO

  3. Regarding Tim’s comment about who pays for this type of benefit… it is a little perplexing to me that people don’t mind paying extra for their trickle down goods and services from private corporations to pay for huge salaries, bonuses, perks, and yes, better benefits than government workers, who work for the non-profit entity that serves taxpayers directly so that no-one is profiting off of what we as a country feel are deserved by everyone.
    Paid parental leave pays off over time, in many ways. It should be something along the lines of unemployment benefits, there if you need them.

  4. Colleen,

    Hi. This is going to continue to be a big issue. And at some point we as a country are going to have to decide what we consider to be important. These type of “benefits” should be given consideration for the reasons you mention and a host of others.

    In Ohio there is going to be a ballot issue about paid sick days. It is very controversial in that it would require businesses with 25 or more employees to grant a certain number of paid sick days. We’ll keep an eye on that one. Business groups are already lobbying hard against it.

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