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Father Shares His Experience Using Paid Parental Leave

Nick Barnes reads to his son.

Nick Barnes, an occupational safety and health specialist for the 477th Fighter Group, reads to his son. He was one of the first 477th Fighter Group civilian employees who applied for Paid Parental Leave. (Courtesy photo from Nick Barnes)

Photo of Ridge, the son of Nick Barnes.

Photo of Ridge. Ridge is the son of Nick Barnes, an occupational safety and health specialist for the 477th Fighter Group. Barnes was one of the first 477th Fighter Group civilian employees who applied for Paid Parental Leave. (Courtesy photo from Nick Barnes)

Nick Barnes with his son.

Nick Barnes, an occupational safety and health specialist for the 477th Fighter Group, with his son. He was one of the first 477th Fighter Group civilian employees who applied for Paid Parental Leave. (Courtesy photo from Nick Barnes)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --

Nick Barnes was one of the first 477th Fighter Group civilian employees who applied for Paid Parental Leave.

Beginning on October 1, 2020, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act allows federal employees to substitute the Family and Medical Leave Act’s unpaid leave.  Now eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave in connection with a qualifying birth, adoption or foster care placement of their child.

Barnes is a civil servant working as the occupational safety and health specialist for the 477th FG. He is also a traditional reservist. During unit training assemblies he is a master sergeant and the NCO in charge of 477th FG armament.

This year, Father’s Day marks the first time Barnes will celebrate the holiday as a parent to his son, Ridge.

“I feel excited beyond belief that I’d even become a father. I feel rewarded to have Ridge because he’s such a gift,” Barnes said. He said he is feeling much more love than he thought he could ever feel for another person.

Barnes and his wife Stacy were unsure how they would adjust to being first-time parents.

“Paid parental leave was an incredible opportunity to have some breathing room and figure out life as a brand-new dad and mom,” said Barnes.

Barnes said he felt like everything was stacked against them since they are both working adults.  FMLA would have allowed Barnes to take unpaid time off, but he was relieved to learn that he would be able to use FEPLA.

“We decided to take the paid parental leave, because initially I really couldn’t afford to be away from work,” Barnes said.

The approval of FEPLA came at a good time for his family. Barnes’ wife returned to work shortly after giving birth. The couple had a difficult time finding childcare for Ridge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Parental leave gave Barnes the chance to focus his attention on taking care of Ridge for several weeks, until they found childcare.

There are many factors to consider whether someone may qualify to use FEPLA and how it is used.

“There is a packet that is completed between the supervisor and the employee,” said Rebecca Newton, 477th FG civilian personnel liaison.

Parental leave gives parents flexibility because each family has different needs. Newton said that paid parental leave arrangements are going to look different from one parent to the other, because each plan will be designed to meet individual needs. 

“In fact, after talking to employee management relations the only people that need to be involved are those two people. The supervisor that agrees to the action and the employee,” said Newton.

Within the first 12-months of Ridge’s life, FEPLA will allow Barnes to be there at times when childcare is unavailable, and his wife must travel for work. 

It also provides Barnes the opportunity to bond with Ridge. Earlier this month, Ridge hit a development milestone; he rolled over. Barnes believes paid parental leave helped make it possible to be there when it happened.  

“This gave us an opportunity to take a breather and enjoy life,” Barnes said.

Details about rules and use of FMLA and paid parental leave through FEPLA can be found on myPers or by contacting civilian personnel.