NIH Guide to Parental Leave

Overview

As soon as practicable after you have determined you have a need for parental leave, we recommend preparing a leave plan and sitting down with your supervisor to review.  This guide provides an overview of the resources available to employees for pregnancy/childbirth, adoption, surrogacy, and foster care purposes.  Leave requests must be approved by your supervisor.

Leave types

Annual Leave

  • Can be used for bonding with a healthy child, as well as sick leave purposes.
  • Requires supervisory approval.

Sick Leave

  • Can be used for childbirth, recuperation, and taking care of a sick child after birth.  The childbirth and recuperation period is determined to be six (6) weeks for a vaginal delivery and eight (8) weeks for a cesarean delivery unless notified otherwise by a physician. 
  • Employees are entitled to use accrued sick leave for pregnancy and childbirth, to care for a family member who is incapacitated due to pregnancy or childbirth, and for adoption or surrogacy purposes.
  • In the case of adoption or surrogacy, can be used for: appointments with attorneys, court proceedings, any required travel, any periods of time during which the employee is ordered or required by the court to take time off from work to care for the child, and any other activities necessary to allow the adoption to proceed.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

  • To be eligible, must have been a federal employee for 12 months.
  • FMLA, an unpaid leave status, provides up to 12 weeks of job protection for the birth of a son or daughter and the care of that newborn child; for the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care, or after surrogacy; and for serious medical conditions.  
  • Childbirth and recuperation, as well as incapacitation related to the pregnancy before childbirth, generally qualify as serious medical conditions under FMLA.  
  • Employees can substitute paid leave (paid parental leave, their own sick and/or annual leave, or donated leave) while under FMLA..
  • Employees can use FMLA to bond with a healthy child, but can only substitute paid parental leave, annual leave, or leave without pay for this purpose.  
  • Additional information and the documentation necessary to invoke and use FMLA can be found within the FMLA FAQ

Paid Parental Leave (PPL)

  • Paid Parental Leave allows for the substitution of up to 12 weeks of paid leave for FMLA unpaid leave granted in connection with the birth of an employee’s child or the placement of a child with an employee for adoption or foster care.
  • Employees must invoke and use FMLA in order to receive PPL by completing the necessary FMLA documentation that can be found in the FMLA FAQ
  • Employees must be sure to review the PPL Quick Reference Guide along with the Eligibility Requirements for PPL to determine their eligibility and the process for using PPL. 
  • An employee must provide advance notice to their supervisor, in writing, of intent to substitute paid leave for FMLA unpaid leave using the PPL Request Form
  • Employees must sign a service agreement to work for 12 weeks after the day on which PPL concludes. 
  • Additional information regarding PPL can be found within the PPL FAQ

Leave sharing programs

  • Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP): Donations are made from one federal employee directly to the NIH employee in need.  Note that the amount of leave received may not meet the level of need.
  • Leave Bank: When you become a member of the Leave Bank, it can provide a more reliable source of paid leave donations than VLTP because approved recipients draw from a pooled fund of annual and restored annual leave up to the Leave Bank’s annual cap, and do not need to rely on direct donations from co-workers.

Leave sharing guidelines

  • Childbirth and recuperation, as well as any incapacitation related to the pregnancy before childbirth, generally qualify as serious medical conditions for leave sharing programs.
  • An employee can receive assistance from both leave sharing programs simultaneously.  
  • It is important to note that in order to receive donated leave from either program, an employee must be projected to go into a non-pay status for at least 24 work hours.  
  • Neither VLTP nor the Leave Bank can be utilized to bond with a healthy child – this includes after adoption or surrogacy and during foster care. 

Advanced Leave

  • In appropriate circumstances, a supervisor may approve either advanced sick or annual leave upon request by the employee.  
  • An employee may be advanced up to 240 hours of sick leave depending on the basis for the request and may be advanced no more than the amount of annual leave they would otherwise accrue by the end of the leave year.   
  • Advanced leave must be repaid, unless the employee dies, retires for disability, or is separated/resigns because of disability.

Benefits information

Adding a child to your health insurance

If you are already enrolled in a “Self and Family” plan, contact your health plan directly to have your child added to your existing coverage.  

To increase your coverage from “Self Only” to “Self Plus One” or from “Self Plus One” to “Self and family” to cover your child: 

  • Complete the Health Benefits Election Form, SF 2809 (starting on page 16)
  • Submit the form with a copy of the birth certificate or hospital documentation to the Benefits Office, Building 31, Room 1B37, within 60 days of the birth of your child.

Increasing your life insurance

To add/increase family coverage:

  • Complete a Life Insurance Election Form, SF 2817
  • Submit the form with a copy of the birth certificate or hospital documentation to the Benefits Office, Building 31, Room 1B37, within 60 days of the birth of your child.

Updating your beneficiaries

Leave resources

Complementary resources

Find your contacts

For benefits, leave, or VLTP, use the contact us page to find your HR professional.
 

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