If you work for the federal government, you should be aware of a Presidential memo that has led to an increase in federal benefits available to you if you are having a baby, adopting a child or becoming a foster parent.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently posted a guide online, Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care, which explains how and when to use leave benefits for those circumstances. It also explains the ways in which different types of leave can be used by employees to take time off from work and spend time with their family.
“OPM believes that this new handbook will allow agencies to be in a better position to assist employees or their family members who are experiencing childbirth, adoption and foster care,” the OPM’s Director, Katherine Archuleta, writes in an introductory message in the handbook.
“In doing so, the federal government will continue to support parents to ensure they can both contribute fully in the workplace and also meet the needs of their families,” she adds.
Federal Leave Polices are Being ‘Modernized’
The Presidential Memorandum was issued January 15 with the goal of “modernizing federal leave policies.”
The memo directed all federal agencies to make sure that discretionary benefits are used to the maximum extent practicable, including leave without pay, advancement of sick or annual leave and donated annual leave under the voluntary leave transfer and leave bank programs.
According to a subsequent OPM memo (which also appears in the new leave handbook), the President also directed all federal agencies to offer:
- 240 hours of advanced sick leave when requested by an employee in appropriate circumstances in connection with the birth or adoption of a child or for other sick-leave-eligible uses; and
- The maximum amount of advanced annual leave when requested by an employee for foster care placement in their home or bonding with a healthy newborn or newly adopted child.
The President’s order also required that OPM provide guidance to all federal agencies by April 15 to help them implement the revised advanced leave policies, including how to apply these policies to part-time employees.
Handbook Should Raise Federal Workers’ Awareness of Leave Policies
The handbook was created after OPM held a series of interagency working group meetings with representatives from more than 40 agencies.
“These working group meetings revealed that many agencies believe that their employees are simply unaware of the wide array of leave and workplace flexibilities available for childbirth, adoption, and foster care purposes,” the OPM memo says.
The 70-page guide to federal leave policies includes sections about Pregnancy and Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care and Interaction of the Various Leave Programs and Workplace Flexibilities.
Within each section on leave, the handbook covers:
- Sick leave
- Advanced sick leave
- Annual leave
- Advanced annual leave
- Family and medical leave
- Leave-sharing programs
- Leave without pay
- Compensatory time off
- Alternative work schedules
- Part-time employment and job-sharing arrangements.
At the Harris Federal Law Firm, we understand how federal employees may not realize the full extent of benefits available to them, including federal disability retirement benefits.
We encourage federal workers to check out the new handbook to get a better understanding of their leave options and to speak with their agency’s human resources officers if they have any questions.