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50

MAY 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

One of AFSA’s key priorities,

as reflected in its 2013-2015 strategic plan, is to improve

the quality of work/life for

Foreign Service employees

at all of our foreign affairs

agencies.

This month, I discuss what

AFSA has done at the Depart-

ment of State. From making

it easier to donate, receive or

use leave to getting to and

from work and taking care

of one’s child, AFSA is there

working on behalf of you and

your family.

New Employee Leave

Bank:

In March AFSA signed

the charter as a found-

ing member of the new

employee leave bank (STATE

22056). The bank provides a

new mechanism for employ-

ees to donate and receive

annual leave in addition to

the existing leave transfer

program.

AFSA partnered with the

two Civil Service unions,

AFGE Local 1534 and NFFE

Local 1998, to negotiate

the most employee-friendly

provisions possible, includ-

ing waiving the caps on

individual leave contributions

to maximize the number of

hours available in the bank.

Dozens of employees have

been able to take advantage

of the bank since it opened

for business in March.

Short-Term Disability

Insurance:

Many AFSA

members have expressed

interest in third-party short-

term disability insurance to

cover maternity leave. AFSA

Improving the Quality of Work/Life

approached AFGE to learn

more about its plan and see

if it would be appropriate for

our members located around

the world. We also spoke with

the American Foreign Service

Protective Association, the

third-party partner that

offers the Foreign Service

Benefit health plan, to see

whether AFSPA might be

able to offer a product for our

members. We hope to be able

to make an announcement

about a new product offering

soon.

Extended Leave Without

Pay:

Spousal employment,

an employee’s own profes-

sional development and

familial or personal obliga-

tions are all valid reasons

for requesting leave without

pay. However, the current

system limits such time to

one year, and State often

takes a narrow view in decid-

ing which applications to

approve. AFSA has advocated

a more expansive program

that would enable employees

to take multiple years off

and plan for that time off in

advance.

Such an extended leave-

without-pay program could

enable an employee’s spouse

to accept a two-year assign-

ment in the private sector,

an employee to pursue a

two-year graduate degree,

or a colleague to care for a

relative for multiple years

without leaving the career

and the Service they care

so passionately about.

AFSA worked closely with

Quadrennial Diplomacy and

Development Review Special

Representative Tom Perriello

and his office to include this

initiative in the upcoming

QDDR report.

Child Care Expansion:

AFSA has been a strong

proponent of expansion of

State’s child care options

to meet the needs of its

transient Foreign Service

population. Recent AFSA and

State Department surveys

(for State results of the AFSA

survey see the

April 2015 FSJ ,

the State survey results are

available on the intranet).

have confirmed that child

care availability is a factor in

deciding whether to return to

Washington, D.C. The surveys

also show that employee

satisfaction with the depart-

ment’s child care facilities

dropped significantly last year

among generalist officers.

AFSA’s number-one child

care priority is expansion of

FSI child care facilities, and

the association is pleased to

be working with the depart-

ment on a project to double

the number of childcare

spaces there.

FSI Transportation

Options:

Last summer AFSA

inaugurated a new transpor-

tation option for FSI stu-

dents, staff and faculty—Cap-

ital BikeShare. Thousands of

bicycle trips have been taken

since, resulting in improved

employee wellness, reduced

parking congestion and less

carbon emission.

AFSA also partnered with

Arlington County to survey

employees using FSI to see

how we could make individ-

ual commutes easier, shorter

and more environmentally

friendly.

AFSA has proposed a

number of improvements

,

including a new eastern cam-

pus pedestrian and bicycle

entrance, and is working with

the department to incor-

porate the ideas into future

master plans and capital

projects.

AFSA’s work resulted in

FSI being recognized as the

department’s first build-

ing to be acknowledged by

Arlington County as a Gold transportation champion.

AFSA’s focus on quality

of employee work/life has

already made it easier for

employees to get to and

from work and ensured that

employees will have more

options for leave, child care

and transportation in the

future. AFSA looks forward

to hearing from you on this

important employee prior-

ity.

n

Next month: Congressional

Advocacy

STATE VP VOICE

| BY MATTHEW ASADA

AFSA NEWS

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.

Contact:

asadam@state.gov

| (202) 647-8160 | @matthewasada

One of AFSA’s key priorities is to improve the quality of

work/life for Foreign Service employees.