The Army has finally followed the lead of the other armed services in updating its parental and adoption leave policies, which now include flexibility in deciding which parent receives primary caregiver leave.
The new Army Military Parental Leave Program, signed Tuesday, gives soldiers who give birth six weeks of maternity convalescent leave, starting immediately after discharge from a hospital.
An additional six weeks of leave is available to the birth parent, or, in some circumstances, an active-duty spouse designated as the primary caregiver. The six-week primary caregiver leave does not have to be taken consecutively with the convalescent maternity leave and also can be used in cases of adoption.
Under the new policy, what was once called paternity leave is known by the gender-neutral term "secondary caregiver" leave, and soldiers who qualify for it are authorized 21 days of leave, the same as the Air Force policy. The Navy and Marine Corps provide just 14 days of secondary caregiver leave.
The new policy provides flexibility in deciding how and when to use some of the leave, as it can by used in conjunction with birth or adoption but must be taken within a year of the event.
According to an Army statement, a soldier cannot be designated as both a primary and secondary caregiver. Also, all leave is non-chargeable, meaning that troops also can take their earned leave as needed.
Previously, the Army provided 12 weeks of maternity leave and 10 days of paternity leave, under a policy established in 2016 by then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. The new policy follows a directive in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and is retroactive to Dec. 23, 2016. The Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard announced their policy changes -- as mandated in the fiscal 2017 NDAA -- last June.
Army officials said the new policy provides "flexibility for members to delay primary or secondary caregiver leave until after a military deployment.
"This new directive represents a marked policy change that will have a positive impact on our soldiers and their families," the Army statement read.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.