Leave time for U.S. military service members who give birth has been doubled, and new parents who don’t give birth, including those who adopt and foster long-term, will get leave as well, CNN reported.
The new policy – introduced by the U.S. military Jan. 4 and effective the day of – gives 12 weeks of parental leave to service members who give birth and 12 weeks of leave for the non-birth parents. This ruling extends to those who adopt or have a long-term foster care placement.
Before this change, only the parent who gave birth was given six weeks. These policy changes will also retroactively apply to those on maternity convalescent leave or caregiver leave as of Dec. 27.
“It is important for the development of military families that members be able to care for their newborn, adopted, or placed child or children … Unit commanders must balance the needs of the unit with the needs of the member to maximize opportunity to use parental leave,” said Gilbert Cisneros, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
The 12 weeks must be used in the first year of the child’s life, according to the Department of Defense. For the birthing parent, the 12 weeks of leave will follow a convalescence period, which can be authorized by a health care provider and will begin on the first full day after the child’s birth. The leave duration can be taken all together or broken up into several pieces. And parents deployed during the one-year leave period can have it extended.
It is important to note that parents who place their child for adoption or have their parental rights terminated by consent or court order will not be eligible for parental leave.
Family planning is often one of the most cited issues for service members, with female Air Force officers telling the Government Accountability Office that they “felt they needed to ensure that pregnancy occurred at certain times in their careers to minimize negative career impacts.”
“As an Army, we recruit soldiers but retain families,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said. “Nearly 4,500 active component enlisted men have separated due to parenthood over the last decade. … Across the entire military, 45% of all active duty married women are in dual-military marriages. This directive reaffirms our commitment to support our military families and children from pregnancy to parenthood.”