At Last, Paid Parental Leave Policy Started October 1, 2020

Federal employees may receive up to 12 weeks of Paid Parental Leave (PPL) following the birth, adoption or fostering of a child as stated in the updated 3 FAM 3530, The Family and Medical leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).  The updated FMLA amends the FMLA to allow the employee to substitute PPL for unpaid FMLA. The amendments for the PPL are contained in section 3 FAM 3535.

PPL must take place in the 12 months following the birth or placement of the child. PPL may be substituted for FMLA only following the birth or placement of the child and not the anticipated birth or placement. (3 FAM 3535.1) The employee must agree to work for 12 weeks after the end of the leave period or must reimburse the Department for any contributions made by the Department to the employee’s Federal Employee Health Benefit during the 12 week PPL period.  Exceptions described “as circumstances beyond the employee’s control” are listed in 3 FAM 3535.5 (e).

To be eligible for PPL, an employee must be eligible for FLMA; they must be Foreign Service (including EFMs on Family Member Appointments) or Civil Servants (including EFMs), and they must have completed 12 months of federal service. The 12 months of service is not required to be consecutive or completed with the Department of State.

FMLA, or unpaid medical leave, is limited to 12 weeks in a 12 month period. If an employee has used FMLA for medical reasons other than birth or placement of a child then the PPL time may be reduced by that amount of time (3 FAM 3535.3(b)).  

PPL requests do not depend on marital status. Unmarried parent employees may request PPL as long as the parent is caring for the child.

For more information, see the updated 3 FAM 3530, and especially 3 FAM 3535 or Announcement #72742 from HR dated September 24, 2020. The announcement also lists other resources including video tutorials on leave options for new parents. Specific forms are required to request FMLA and to substitute PPL for FMLA.  They are listed in both the FAM and the Announcement.

The policy is not without its caveats but is a huge step forward towards being in line with policies of other developed countries. The Paid Parental Leave Working Group is still pursuing common sense policy changes and appreciates input into their Innovation Portal.

Ann LaPorta

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