Military increases parental leave for service members

A major change at the Department of Defense (DOD) could help keep more service members in the military. DOD just announced it is increasing parental leave to twelve weeks starting this week.

That goes for service members who give birth and the service member parents who support them, along with those who adopt or get a long-term foster child.

This is a huge increase. Previous regulations provided some recovery time and up to just six weeks of maternity leave and only two to three weeks for the parent who doesn’t give birth.

“It’s an example of the Department of Defense really putting families first,” said Shannon Razsadin, President and Executive Director of the Military Family Advisory Network.

She is also a military spouse.

“When you think about welcoming a new member of your family, you often find yourselves leaning on, you know, grandparents, friends and established networks that you have in place,” Razsadin said. “But military families may not have that and so having both parents, or just a single parent, really being able to focus on the baby and welcoming that new family member is going to make a big difference.”

It’s important to note this isn’t a blanket no questions asked leave policy. A memo from DOD leadership says commanders must balance the leave with the needs of their units and operational requirements.

This could also benefit national security because it could help the military attract and retain troops, according to advocates.

“In some cases the services are seeing that they’re competing with the private sector for retention and for new talent and so to be able to package this as part of the benefit you have in joining the military, in addition to other wonderful things that go along with military service, it will make a big difference,” Raszadin added.

In most cases, the twelve weeks leave have to be taken within one year of the birth or adoption.