New Reserve Maternity Leave Policy Issued by Pentagon 18 Months After Congressional Order

Electronics Technician 3rd Class Tyler Hernandez meets his child for the first time following the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf's (CG 72) return to homeport. (U.S. Navy/Justin Wolpert)
Electronics Technician 3rd Class Tyler Hernandez meets his child for the first time following the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf's (CG 72) return to homeport. (U.S. Navy/Justin Wolpert)

The military Reserve components and National Guard are rolling out new maternity leave policies, providing up to six days of inactive duty pay and retirement points for members who give birth, with the Navy being the latest service to outline its policies last week.

But Reserve moms who gave birth within the past 18 months -- after Congress passed the law directing the Defense Department to offer the benefit, but before the agency and the services issued their guidance -- will not be eligible.

The Defense Department published a policy June 9 on Reserve Component Military Leave, ordering the services to provide paid authorized absences in lieu of inactive duty for training, also known as IDT, for at least 12 training periods, or the equivalent of three weekends.

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The new benefit is effective June 9, 2022, even though the law that required it was signed on Jan. 1, 2021, and stipulates that the benefit go into effect the day the legislation passed.

The directive, titled "Reserve Component Maternity Leave Program," clearly states that the policy is not retroactive.

The DoD did not respond by publication to questions regarding the discrepancy between the law's proposed effective date and its new policy, leaving moms who gave birth and took unpaid leave between Jan. 1, 2021, and June 8, 2022, with the same option as all Reserve members who had previously given birth: that of unpaid maternity leave and no accrual of retirement points for those weekends.

The services have been rolling out their specific parental leave policies in recent months, including the Navy, which released its guidance last week covering the Navy and Marine Corps Reserves.

The DoD and service policies essentially provide six days of leave for Reserve members and accrual of retirement points.

Per DoD guidance, the Navy announcement noted, the effective date is June 9.

"[The DoD policy] prohibits retroactive requests for qualifying birth events on 8 June 2022 or earlier," the Navy's message to the force said.

According to the guidance, new moms must take the maternity absence within 12 months of giving birth, and commanders cannot deny the benefit if taken within the first three months. After that, commanders can weigh mission requirements in considering whether to grant leave.

Navy Reserve members expressed concern in mid-April that their service had not issued a policy following the Army and Coast Guard's announcements of the new benefit earlier this year. Navy officials told that they were waiting on DoD guidance before publishing their own.

The policy does not apply to adoptions or paternity leave and will be offered only to drilling reservists "in good standing," according to the DoD policy.

Under the memo issued June 9 by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gil Cisneros, Reserve members who experience a live birth, stillbirth or miscarriage after 20 weeks can receive the paid authorized absences.

They also are eligible to receive retirement points for the associated weekends, according to the policy.

The Army announced its policy April 19 ahead of the DoD's announcement, allowing Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers paid leave for 12 unit training assemblies, or three weekends, plus the option of four unpaid assemblies, usually two days.

The Coast Guard also issued its guidance in April, announcing the 12 IDT, or essentially six-day policy, while the Air Force has not yet published Reserve-specific guidance.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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