President Joe Biden recently held a press conference celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain workers without losing their jobs or health care benefits. As part of that press conference, Biden called for expanding that legislation through a national program of paid family and medical leave for employees, which he laid out in a memorandum. This program would start with federal agencies expanding the availability of paid and unpaid leave for their workers.
Biden noted in his memorandum that the United States was one of the few countries worldwide that does not guarantee paid leave. Additionally, 92% of America’s lowest-paid workers have no access to paid family leave through their employers. Most of these workers are women and people of color.
The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act will make paid parental leave available to qualified federal employees in connection with the birth of a child or the placement of a child for adoption or foster care. In addition, the heads of federal agencies are to support access to leave without pay for employees in various situations, such as caring for their parents, medical reasons, military exigency, and bereavement. Unpaid leave should be available for workers even if they are within their first year of employment and are ineligible for FMLA or paid parental leave.
The memorandum supports access for federal employees to paid and unpaid leave for new reasons. These reasons include being the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and some non-medical reasons, such as relocation or taking related legal action.