New parents will soon benefit from more generous paid maternity medical leave, as well as primary and secondary parental leave instituted by the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
These new policies were updated as part of the Department of Defense Parental Leave Program and are retroactive to December 2016.
Military Extends Parental Leave Policy for Service Members
The updated and expanded parental leave policies apply to birth parents, including same-sex couples, as well as adoptive and surrogate parents.
Maternal convalescent leave and either primary or secondary parental leave may be combined. Non-convalescent parental leave can be used at any time within the child’s first year of life or after adoption.
Parental leave doesn’t have to be taken immediately after birth or adoption but can be spread out as desired by the service member. However, the allocated leave days must be taken consecutively.
Parents can determine if the active duty member will serve as a primary or secondary caregiver. Birth mothers are not automatically categorized as the primary caregiver.
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While the coverage is relatively uniform in terms of inclusivity, there are some slight variations across the services. Additionally, the Army has not announced any changes to their parental leave policies at this time.
Active duty airmen can now take up to six weeks of maternal convalescent leave. In addition, primary caregiver leave is also six weeks. Secondary caregiver leave is 21 days.
Personnel may only hold one caregiver designation
This policy is among the most generous of all four services that have announced changes.
“We now have not only the most generous parental leave policy in the Department of Defense, we have the most generous parental leave policy in the federal government,” Kaleth Wright, chief master sergeant of the Air Force, wrote in a Facebook.
Those who serve in the Coast Guard are granted six weeks of maternal convalescent leave. Primary caregiver leave is also six weeks, with 21 days of secondary caregiver leave allowed. This new policy increases the secondary parental leave from 10 to 21 days.
“The strength of our Coast Guard families determines the strength of our Coast Guard,” said Adm. Karl L. Schultz, Coast Guard commandant. “That’s why time off to care for new family members is really a readiness issue. Our members need – and deserve – time to bond with their new child and adjust to new routines so they can return to work ready to keep the nation safe.”
Sailors are authorized six weeks of maternal convalescent leave. Primary caregivers can take six weeks and secondary caregivers can take 14 days.
“Navy’s parental leave program supports Sailor 2025’s goal of removing obstacles that negatively influence a Sailor’s decision to stay Navy when they are looking to start or raise a family,” according to a statement from the Navy.
Marines can take six weeks of convalescent leave, as well as six weeks of primary caregiver leave. Fourteen days of secondary caregiver leave is authorized under the updated policy. This mirrors the Naval parental leave policy as the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy.
Extended Parental Leave General Policies
All updated parental leave policies are retroactive to December 23, 2016. Troops may combine maternal convalescent leave with either primary or secondary caregiver leave.
While leave categories may be taken separately or jointly, they must be taken in their entirety within the first year following birth or adoption. Service members can only qualify under one of the caregiver categories, per the descriptions in their service-specific guidance.