Archived Insight | December 27, 2019

New Paid Leave Rights for Federal Employees

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Public Law 116-92, enacted on December 20, 2019, included the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA). 

FEPLA amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and provides for paid leave for federal government employees for up to 12 weeks in the first 12 months after the birth or placement for adoption of a child. 

The new paid leave rights will be available for any birth or placement for adoption or foster care occurring on or after October 1, 2020. 

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Federal employees currently have rights to unpaid leave under FMLA in various circumstances.

Generally, Federal employee FMLA rights include the right to unpaid leave in order to care for certain family members with a serious health condition; leave rights because of the employee’s own serious health condition; leave rights related to certain family member’s military duty; and leave rights related to births and adoptions.

In the instances of a birth or adoption, before passage of FEPLA, Federal employees could take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period (1) because of the birth of a son or daughter; or (2) because of the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care.

Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave

FEPLA, through its amendments to FMLA, provides Federal employees with new, paid leave rights related to birth and placement for adoption or foster care.

Under FEPLA, Federal employees are now entitled to 12 weeks of paid parental leave during a 12-month period related to the birth or placement for adoption or foster care of a child.

The employee must have completed 12 months of service to be eligible for this paid leave. Employees may choose to use both paid and unpaid leave, and cannot be forced to use unpaid leave first.

They may also use accrued annual or sick leave in addition to federal paid parental leave. If the paid leave available under FEPLA is not used within the 12-month period, it is forfeited.

Under FEPLA, paid leave has only been extended for leave related to births and placements for adoption or foster care. Other leave rights under the FMLA, such as those due to an employee’s or family member’s serious health condition, remain available on an unpaid basis.

A Federal employee taking federal paid parental leave is required to agree to return to work for at least 12 weeks following leave. If the employee fails to return, they will generally be required to reimburse the agency for any employer premiums for health insurance coverage during the leave period.

There are limited exceptions to this, including instances when the employee is unable to return to work due to the serious health condition of the employee or the child or due to other circumstances beyond the control of the employee.

Next steps

The new paid leave provisions under FEPLA are effective for a birth or placement taking place on or after October 1, 2020.

Regulations may be issued clarifying the specific, detailed terms of the new law. This new Federal employee paid-leave right may generate questions related to paid and unpaid leave rights available under both Federal and non-Federal employee health plans, as well as questions related to the interaction between Federal and State leave laws applicable to group health plans. 

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This page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or investment advice. You are encouraged to discuss the issues raised here with your legal, tax and other advisors before determining how the issues apply to your specific situations.

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