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Paid Parental Leave: Urge Senators to Support This First Step

Ask your senators to support upcoming legislation to guarantee federal workers four weeks of paid parental leave for a new child, as a first step toward universal paid leave.

Action Needed:

Providing paid leave to parents is only fair to working families who need to both care for a new family member as well as maintain an income. Most industrialized nations have provided paid parental leave for decades.

Paid parental leave for 2.7 million federal workers can be the model that we can work to achieve for the rest of the country. This important "balancing work and family" legislation would help ensure that federal workplace benefits are competitive with the private sector and it also sets an important precedent demonstrating that our country values the "work" that parents and caregivers provide.

Send an email message to your senators. We need your help to increase the number of co-sponsors in the Senate so that this legislation has a better chance of passage.

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This January, a paid leave bill was introduced in both the Senate and the House. Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) introduced S. 354, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, which will guarantee four weeks of paid leave for federal workers for the birth or adoption of a child. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is the chief sponsor of the House counterpart, H.R.626.

Under the current Family and Medical Leave Act, federal employees are allowed twelve weeks of unpaid leave. For many workers who are either at the lower pay grades or haven't built up their vacation time, having a child means that they will either lose several weeks of pay that is crucial to their family's survival or be forced to return to work after only a week or two.

The Paid Parental Leave Act addresses this important issue by ensuring that parents can spend at least four weeks at home with a new child without suffering devastating financial consequences. As more working families struggle to make ends meet during this devastating economic downturn, it is especially important to ensure that workers are not forced to choose between their mortgage and their new child.

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On June 5, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly (258-154) passed its version of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (H.R. 626). In order to gain momentum and go to the floor for a vote, S. 354 needs many more supporters. Last year, the bill passed the House and never made it to a vote in the Senate. Let's make sure that doesn't happen again this year. We need your help to make sure the Senate passes the bill this time.

The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act provides four weeks of paid parental leave to male and female federal employees who are the birth or adoptive parents of a new child and who are eligible for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The bill also enables workers to use up to eight weeks of accrued paid sick and vacation time during the remainder of their FMLA leave for a new child. The bill gives the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) authority to increase the number of weeks of paid parental leave from four to eight weeks once further studies are conducted.

Many employers in the private sector already offer some form of paid leave for new parents. In order to keep a quality workforce, the federal government must assist working families by offering similar benefits. As the nation's largest employer -- with 2.7 million civilian employees across the nation -- the federal government should serve as a model for family-friendly work place policies. Passing a paid parental leave bill for federal workers is a critical benchmark as we work to provide paid sick, family and medical leave for all workers.

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Paid parental leave will cost very little and will not affect federal agencies' ability to do their work. The federal budget and appropriations bills have allocated funds for full-time workers and there is no "profit" when employees take unpaid family leave. Also, federal agencies have policies and procedures in place which cover for absent employees who must miss work for various reasons. According to anecdotal evidence gathered recently from the Department of Labor, leave to care for a new child -- which can be planned for and is usually taken in blocks of time -- is the easiest kind of leave to administer.

Paid parental leave will also save money by reducing turnover and replacement costs. Studies estimate that turnover-related costs are among the most significant employer expenses: the cost of replacing a worker is approximately 25 percent of the worker's salary. Most industrialized nations provide for paid parental leave, and it is time for the U.S. to do the same.

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