UPDATE: Dec. 23, 2019: President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 Dec. 20. The NDAA includes the provision for federal workers to receive 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth or placement of a child.
Congress has given the green light for federal workers to receive 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth or placement of a child. This first-time landmark benefit comes as lawmakers and influential CEOs, continue to advocate for a nationwide parental leave policy.
The Senate approved and sent the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes the leave provision, to President Donald Trump Dec. 17. The House passed the bill Dec. 11. Trump previously said he would sign the bill into law, and Ivanka Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the president would sign the legislation this week.
The NDAA, sweeping defense legislation, provides 12 weeks' paid parental leave for federal employees based on language of a bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. The benefit takes effect Oct. 1, 2020.
The NDAA also includes a "3.1-percent pay raise for our troops [and establishes] the United States Space Force," according to a statement by the White House press secretary. Bipartisan congressional lawmakers allowed for the creation of the Space Force as the sixth branch of the military in exchange for the new parental-leave benefits, according to The New York Times.
Calls for private-sector leave
The new benefit is reserved for federal employees and highlights the fact that the U.S. is the only industrialized country without a nationwide federal parental leave policy or law, according to Maloney.
The congresswoman noted in her opening remarks that the U.S. is one of only two countries that do not provide workers with paid family or medical leave, a statement presidential candidate Andrew Yang made during the November Democratic presidential debates. (It's worth noting that this is not strictly true, according to reporting from Inc.)
"This agreement is not perfect," she said. "The Senate refused to approve paid leave for medical reasons. This provision covers only federal employees. So, it does not cover anyone working in the private sector."
Maloney, who has advocated for such a benefit for many years, added, "We will continue fighting for these Americans in the months and years to come. But despite these drawbacks, this is an amazing accomplishment."
Some state and local governments require paid leave for private-sector employees, but that patchwork of laws serves neither employees nor employers well, according to the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies.
Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, sent Trump and congressional leaders a letter Dec. 12 on behalf of the council, urging them to enact federal legislation creating paid family and medical leave benefits.
"Legislation should provide uniform standards that apply to all covered employees and that adhere to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act requirements," the letter said. "Doing so would benefit employees needing coverage as well as help businesses challenged by the growing patchwork of competing and inconsistent state plans."
As private companies compete with the federal government for top talent, benefits could be a deciding factor, and studies have shown that employers can boost retention by offering such perks.