Congress nearing deal on paid parental leave for government workers

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By Leigh Ann Caldwell  with NBC News Politics
Image: The U.S. Capitol building is pictured on Capitol Hill in Washington
The U.S. Capitol   -   Copyright  Loren Elliott Reuters

WASHINGTON — Congress is nearing a deal on paid parental leave for federal employees according to four sources familiar with the negotiations, a significant development for government workers but also a symbolic gesture at a time when most American workers still aren't given paid leave.

The agreement would give 2.1 million non-military federal workers twelve weeks of paid leave to care for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a family member, according to sources familiar with the details of the details of the discussions. If passed, it would mark the first time the federal government has guaranteed civilian employees access to paid parental leave.

The federal workforce is part of the 83 percent of workers in the nation who aren't provided any paid family leave, including parental leave, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. While the Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of leave to care for a child or ailing family member, none of that is paid-guaranteed and is often too much of a financial burden to use for many families.

The measure was negotiated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that sets defense priorities. It was included in the House passed version of the defense bill but its fate remained uncertain when negotiations between and reluctant Republicans began with the Senate. After more than three months of negotiations it was one of the last issues to be dealt with. The NDAA still must pass both house of Congress before it reaches the president's desk.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who has championed this issue, is slated to hold her first hearing as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on national paid and family leave on Tuesday.

A large majority of Americans support paid family leave but disagree on if the government should require or help to subsidize it. The United States is the only developed country without paid leave for new mothers.