Children playing at daycare Thefamily leave provision would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leavefor the birth, adoption or foster of a new child. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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Federal employees are about to get something most privateemployees don't get: 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

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NPR reports that although there's still divisionwithin the Congress over whether federal employees should be paidto take parental leave—predictably, Republicans havenot been champions of the idea despite White House support, whileDemocrats have been working toward just such a benefit foryears—the measure passed, within a defense bill, in a move thatalso gave President Trump his much-vaunted Space Force as a newbranch of the Air Force.

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Related: Paid leave policies: Picking up steam or is it justhot air?

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The family leave provision in the must-pass National DefenseAuthorization Act would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave forthe birth, adoption or foster of a new child, and would affect the2.1 million workers employed by the federal government. It is alsothe first change to federal family leave policy since 1993.

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It does not, however, provide paid leave for caregivers of family members or for personalinjury, according to CNBC, and workers will still have to rely onthe Family and Medical Leave Act and its provision for unpaidleave.

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The U.S. has had no federal policy for parental leave, althoughsome companies voluntarily offer it and eight states and theDistrict of Columbia have passed such provisions. Still, just 19percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave throughtheir employers, while 40 percent can draw on paid personal medicalleave via employer-provided temporary disability insurance.

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Other countries, however, have not been so reluctant to providepaid leave for new parents; in fact, CNBC cited RepresentativeCarolyn Maloney, D-NY, chairwoman of the House Committee onOversight and Reform, saying in a congressional hearing that theU.S. is one of just two countries in the world without any sort ofmandatory paid leave, the other being Papua New Guinea.

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"The U.S. is dead last in the world in terms of not providingany sort of paid leave," said Wendy Chun-Hoon, co-director ofFamily Values @ Work, a group that advocates for paid family leave.That appears to be about to change.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.