What is Paid Parental Leave?
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a United States labor law requiring covered employers to provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. FMLA allows for unpaid leave limited to a total of 12 weeks (26 weeks for military caregiver leave) in any 12-month period. The FMLA unpaid leave is permitted for various specified purposes, including the birth or placement of a son or daughter.
The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA) is effective Oct. 1, 2020 and allows the substitution of up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave (PPL) for FMLA unpaid leave granted in connection with the birth of an employee’s son or daughter or the placement of a son or daughter with an employee for adoption or foster care. An employee must invoke FMLA unpaid leave in order to receive PPL.
Who is eligible for Paid Parental Leave?
PPL applies to federal employees who meet eligibility requirements for Title 5 FMLA.
Title 42 employees are also eligible if hired under the following programs:
- Special Consultants (42 U.S.C. 209(f))
- Service Fellows (42 U.S.C. 209(g))
- Senior Biomedical Research and Biomedical Product Assessment Service (SBRBPAS) (42 U.S.C. 237(b)) authorities
- 21st Century Cures Act
In order to receive PPL, an employee must have:
- Completed at least 12 months of covered service at any time in the past, including certain periods of active duty in the uniformed services performed by members of the National Guard or Reserves;
- A part-time or full-time work schedule (i.e., employees with an intermittent work schedule are ineligible); and
- An appointment of more than 1 year in duration (i.e., employees with temporary appointments not to exceed 1 year are ineligible.)
By law, paid parental leave is available to eligible employees only in connection with the birth or placement of a son or daughter that occurs on or after October 1, 2020 and is not effective with respect to any birth or placement (for adoption or foster care) occurring before October 1, 2020.
For more information regarding how to request PPL, please see Process for Requesting PPL
What is required to use Paid Parental Leave?
In order to receive PPL, employees must:
- Provide advance notice to their supervisor, in writing, of intent to invoke FMLA by substituting paid leave for FMLA unpaid leave using the PPL Request Form.
- Provide the agency, upon request, with the appropriate documentation, verifying that his/her use of PPL is directly connected to a birth or placement that has occurred.
- Sign the service agreement to work for 12 weeks after the day on which the PPL concludes.
What if I'm incapacitated?
If an employee is incapacitated and their personal representative requests substitution of PPL for FMLA unpaid leave, the request for PPL must be conditionally approved. The conditional approval is based on the presumption that the employee would have elected to substitute PPL for FMLA unpaid leave and would have entered into the work obligation agreement if the employee had not been incapacitated. Within 5 workdays after returning to work, the employee must enter into a written agreement to meet the work obligation or pay any required reimbursement.
If an employee declines or refuses to enter into the written agreement after they are determined to be no longer incapacitated, any portion of the 12 weeks of PPL that has not been exhausted must be cancelled and any portion of the PPL that was used must be designated as invalid. The invalidated PPL must then be converted to leave without pay unless the employee requests that other paid leave or paid time off be applied in place of the invalidated PPL. Any pay received for the invalidated PPL hours not replaced by other paid leave or paid time off is a debt to NIH and is subject to collection.
How is PPL applied?
Paid Parental Leave may be used no later than the end of the 12-month period beginning on the date of the birth or placement involved. At the end of that 12-month period, any unused balance of PPL granted in connection with the given birth or placement permanently expires and is not available for future use. PPL may be used intermittently within this established timeframe.
Do I have to exhaust my own leave before using Paid Parental Leave?
There is no requirement to exhaust other paid leave types (e.g., annual, sick, etc.) before using PPL. Employees may request to use other types of leave to cover periods of time outside of FMLA leave periods. In addition, an employee may take unpaid FMLA leave before the birth or placement to cover certain activities related to the birth or placement but cannot substitute paid parental leave for those pre-birth/placement FMLA unpaid leave periods.
Can I use the Leave Bank for birth and recuperation, if I also qualify for Paid Parental Leave (PPL)?
Yes. Leave Bank hours may be used if the employee also qualifies for PPL.
Please note that Leave Bank hours can only be used for the portion of time in which the employee is experiencing a medical emergency or caring for a family member who is experiencing a medical emergency, i.e. for birth and recuperation purposes. The Leave Bank can offer 6 weeks immediately following delivery for a vaginal birth or 8 weeks for a C-section birth. The employee must first exhaust their sick and annual leave before utilizing Leave Bank hours.
PPL is considered a form of FMLA and offers 12 weeks paid time-off that may be used within a 12-month period following the birth or placement of a child. As such, if the employee invokes FMLA during the 6 or 8 weeks whilst they are using Leave Bank hours, this time will deplete their 12 weeks of PPL.
An employee does not have to invoke the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to utilize Leave Bank hours, but the Leave Approving Official (LAO) may deny Leave Bank hours on the timecard if FMLA is not invoked. If the employee does not invoke FMLA while using Leave Bank hours, the employee would receive 6-8 weeks of leave for the birth and recuperation period plus an additional 12 weeks of PPL.
Who can I contact for more information?
While we have this interim guidance, we are currently awaiting final regulations from OPM and HHS.
More information will be forthcoming. In the interim, please contact the Workplace Flexibilities Team if you have any questions.