It appears that after decades of opposition, Republicans are going to agree to fund paid parental leave for federal workers in exchange for Democrats not opposing the Space Force requested by Donald Trump.
Republicans have opposed the idea of the federal government requiring companies to offer paid leave to new parents, believing it to be an issue best worked out by the private sector. But more and more companies are already offering the benefit, including paid leave to care for a sick child or ailing relative.
The agreement would give 2.1 million non-military federal workers 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn or adopted child or to care for a family member, according to sources familiar with the details of the discussions. If passed, the bill would the become first time the federal government has guaranteed civilian employees access to paid parental leave.
The federal workforce is part of the 83 percent of workers in the nation who aren’t provided any paid family leave, including parental leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of leave to care for a child or ailing family member, none of that is guaranteed to be paid, and the unpaid time off is often too much of a financial burden to use for many families.
The measure is part of the Defense Authorization Act, which is being worked out by congressional negotiators. Republicans have agreed to back the bill with the paid leave provision while Democrats will support the formation of a Space Force, which will be the fifth branch of service in the military.
Democrats are applauding the move. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the deal, if enacted, would be a big win since the federal government is the nation’s largest employer.
“If this is enacted, it will mean that public servants won’t have to make the impossible choice of getting a paycheck or taking care of their children,” Schatz told NBC News.
“This means that the largest employer in the country now provides basic parental leave, a huge step, and we must work to ensure that paid leave for other family emergencies will be added in the future.” [Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)] said.
The Space Force will be funded by a separate bill and the details of exactly what its responsibilities will be have yet to be worked out. The Pentagon has been concerned that a Space Force would siphon money away from existing space defense programs. Trump’s idea is to combine all of those programs into one service, as well as give the new Space Force additional warfare tasks.
America’s workforce has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. With more women than ever working to support their families, it’s not surprising that the federal government would give paid leave to new mothers and caregivers. For the private sector, it will eventually be necessary for companies to offer paid leave as an incentive to keep good employees.
As a political move, it won’t help Republican candidates with suburban women. But it won’t hurt either.