Many new fathers now have twice as much paternity leave available to them under a new Army policy designed to give parents more time with their newborns.
The policy, signed last month by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, means that parental leave time will go from 10 to 21 days for fathers or mothers in cases where they are the secondary caregiver of a newborn. The policy also provides more flexibility for mothers as primary caregivers, allowing six weeks convalescence leave after giving birth and another six weeks that can be used at any point within the child’s first year, a statement said.
In the past, mothers were required to use up to 12 weeks of maternity leave immediately after giving birth.
“We want soldiers and their families to take full advantage of this benefit,” said Larry Lock, the Army’s chief of compensation and entitlements, in the statement.
The Army was required to develop a more flexible policy in connection with provisions in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
The Army said its policy is retroactive to Dec. 23, 2016, which means that soldiers who took only 10 days of paternal leave over the past couple of years can apply to take an additional 11 days as secondary caregiver.
The new policy also permits fathers who are primary caregivers to be granted six weeks of parental leave. But only one parent can be designated as primary caregiver, the Army said.
In the case of retroactive primary caregiver leave, it can be taken up to 18 months from a birth, the Army said.
In June, the Navy and Marines increased leave for secondary caregivers from 10 to 14 days. Like the Army, the Air Force allows secondary caregivers three weeks of leave.
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