Last year, the federal government created a new paid leave category for federal workers—paid parental leave (PPL). As part of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2019 (FEPLA), most federal workers can take up to 12 weeks of PPL in connection with the birth of a child.
Employees can also use federal paid parental leave for the placement of a child under their care. This includes situations like adoption and foster care.
Paid parental leave is just the latest addition to the many benefits of federal employment, including generous retirement benefits, regular working hours, and ample health benefits.
Learn more about the government’s new federal paid parental leave below.
What Is Parental Leave For Federal Employees?
The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA) allows federal employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a newly born or newly adopted child. The employee must take this leave within 12 months of the birth or adoption of the child.
Which Federal Employees Qualify for Paid Parental Leave?
To use paid parental leave, you must complete at least 12 months of federal service as stated in 5 CFR 630.1201(b)(1). Furthermore, you must not be under a temporary appointment (less than one year). You also cannot be an intermittent employee.
Provided you meet these basic requirements, you are eligible to take paid parental leave under FEPLA.
When Did Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees Come Into Effect?
As the name of the bill suggests, Congress passed the Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave Act of 2019 in December of that year.
However, the rule implementing the bill’s provisions did not come into effect until October 1, 2020. This means that federal employees cannot take any PPL for any births or placements of children that took place before that date.
- You may only use PPL during the 12-month period immediately following the birth or placement of your child.
- If multiple children were born or came under your care at the same time, you can only use one 12-week period of PPL.
However, if you have multiple children at different times during one year, each child qualifies you for a new PPL period.
Parental Leave vs. FMLA
Legally, parental leave is viewed as a kind of leave available under FMLA. This means that you can obtain paid parental leave only if you are eligible for FMLA leave.
Parental leave also counts as FMLA leave; you can’t use both within the same twelve-month period.
What Are My Options If I Had a Child Before the Paid Parental Leave Law Came Into Effect?
If your child was born or came into your care before October 1, 2020, you can still take leave to care for them. However, you won’t receive any pay during that time.
Before FEPLA, the closest thing to a Federal employee maternity leave law or a Federal paternity leave law was the Federal and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). FMLA allows eligible federal employees to take leave for up to 12 weeks for a variety of medical reasons, including the birth of a child.
However, unlike FEPLA, FMLA provides employees only unpaid leave. Furthermore, you have to meet the same standards for FMLA as you would for FEPLA.
Can I Use Leave Under Both FMLA and FEPLA?
No. PPL is provided as a replacement for the unpaid leave provided under FMLA. However, you can use sick leave and annual leave in coordination with PPL.
Do I Have to Use My Sick or Annual Leave Before Using Paid Parental Leave?
No. In fact, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)—the agency responsible for determining the personnel practices of all federal agencies—explicitly states that federal agencies cannot force their employees to take other forms of leave before using PPL.
How Do I Request Paid Parental Leave?
Most federal agencies have their own paid parental leave request forms. If you intend to request PPL, contact your local human resources office to learn about the forms that your agency uses.
Please note that you must provide supporting medical documentation if your employer requests it. The types of supporting documentation you have to submit will vary from agency to agency.
That said, OPM released guidance for the kinds of documents agencies may accept. Commonly accepted medical documents include birth certificates, hospital records, and any documents that name you as a parent.
Finally, FEPLA requires that you sign an agreement promising to work at least twelve weeks of work after using PPL.
Is Your Federal Employer Giving You the Paid Parental Leave You Are Entitled To?
The new federal paid parental leave law recognizes that the birth or placement of a child is a life-changing event. It’s also a stressful period that requires your full attention without the interference of work. If your employer is denying you paid parental leave or retaliating against you because you took PPL, they are infringing on your rights.
That’s why we are here. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wesing, PPLC., we fight to protect our clients’ rights. We also work to ensure that they get fair treatment from their employers.
Over the years, we’ve helped hundreds of federal employees deal with a huge range of federal employment problems. So let us help you stand up to your employer.