US Congress grants federal workers three months of paid parental leave

The US Congress has passed a measure allowing for 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal civilian workers (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB)

Washington (AFP) - The US Senate on Tuesday approved a provision that would give federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave, in a move championed by Democrats as well as Republican President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka.

The measure, which passed in the House last week, is part of a massive $738 billion defense spending bill that now heads to the president's desk and will fund a wide range of military activities, including creation of a new space force.

The bipartisan agreement on parental leave applies to the nation's 2.1 million civilian federal employees in the event of childbirth, adoption or taking on a foster care child.

Its passage comes in return for Democrats' support of the space force, a favored project of Trump and the Republicans.

The parental leave provision is a rare example of consensus in highly polarized Washington and is expected to go into force in October 2020, according to Democrats who hope it will be extended to the private sector, where companies generally create their own rules concerning leave for new parents.

Ivanka Trump, who is also an adviser to the president, called the measure "a HUGE step forward towards making paid leave a reality for all Americans."

Democratic Senator Brian Schatz, who authored the provision, said that it meant federal "workers will no longer be forced to choose between getting a paycheck and caring for their children."

Federal law previously stipulated that civilian federal workers, as well as employees at companies with more than 50 workers, were entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. New parents would have to use sick leave or vacation days to stay with their children any longer.

Some states such as California and New York have already opted to pay for their employees' parental leave.

Democrats would like to take the measure even further allowing 12 weeks of paid leave for family-related issues such as a sick child or spouse.

According to Schatz, studies show that providing paid leave for federal employees would save the government at least $50 million annually in turnover and replacement costs.