WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) joined Reps. Jackie Speier (CA-14), Stephanie Bice (OK-05) and Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) in introducing the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act, bipartisan legislation that would make several changes to improve parental leave benefits for members of the U.S. military. Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL) has introduced the legislation in the Senate.
“No one who serves our country should feel like they have to choose between their military career and becoming a parent,” said Joyce. “But unfortunately, that is often the case. We should be giving our military members every possible opportunity to succeed, not making their service incompatible with starting a family. I’m proud to help lead the initiative to change this outdated dynamic by introducing the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill so that all of our servicemembers can enjoy the gift of parenthood without having to neglect their military careers and professional goals.”
The first weeks after birth are not only fundamental to ensuring new parents can adjust to the most important role they will ever undertake, but they are also critical to the long-term health of the child and mother. However, while Congress has passed legislation that provides federal employees with up to 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents in addition to at least 6 weeks of sick leave for the birth mother during her recovery, military servicemembers currently receive much less – six weeks of “primary caregiver leave,” six weeks of convalescent leave for new mothers, and just two to three weeks of “secondary caregiver leave,” primarily for new fathers.
The military’s outdated parental leave policies are having a negative impact on recruitment and retention. In a 2020 Government Accountability Office study, pregnancy was one of the top three reasons given for separation between 2004 and 2013 by female enlisted servicemembers with five or fewer years of completed service. Additionally, according to the Army, various studies have also shown that when fathers take parental leave, the result is beneficial for the whole family and very impactful for women.
Specifically, the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act would improve parental leave benefits for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians by:
- Increasing caregiver leave to 12 weeks for both primary and secondary caregivers (for a total of 18 weeks of leave, including convalescent leave, for new birth mothers, comparable to what federal employees receive);
- Authorizing parental leave to be taken for long-term placements of foster children;
- Allowing both primary and secondary caregiver leave to be taken in multiple increments, as is allowed for federal employees;
- Establishing nonchargeable leave for the secondary caregiver in the event of a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death;
- Clarifying that the military’s 12-month postpartum deferment policy also applies to overnight travel, physically demanding training exercises, body composition standards, and the physical fitness test; and
- Improving the career intermission program to make it more attractive for servicemembers, including those who would use it for longer-term family caregiving.