Legislation has been introduced in the House to expand parental leave benefits for active duty military members.
Known as the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act (H.R. 3122), the bill was introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and has 31 co-sponsors as of the time of this writing. The lawmakers are looking to build on their success with providing paid parental leave to federal employees by expanding parental leave benefits offered to active duty military personnel.
The proposed legislation would increase caregiver leave to 12 weeks and allow military members to take parental leave for the long-term placement of a foster child. Paid leave would be provided for secondary caregivers in case of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death Service members could also take caregiver leave in multiple increments. The legislation would also expand the 12-month postpartum deferment from deployment to include overnight travel, physically demanding training exercises, body composition standards, and the physical fitness test.
The legislation would do the following:
- Authorize up to 12 weeks of primary caregiver leave (up from 6 weeks under current law), and require expansion to 12 weeks within 1 year of enactment.
- Authorize up to 12 weeks of secondary caregiver leave (up from 2 or 3 weeks under current law), and require expansion to 12 weeks within 5 years of enactment.
- Allow primary and secondary caregiver leave to be used in the case of a long-term placement of a foster child.
- Allow secondary caregiver leave to be taken in more than one increment, and require the services to implement the option to take primary caregiver leave and secondary caregiver leave in more than one increment no later than 6 months after enactment.
- Offer nonchargeable leave in the case of a member of the armed forces who would have been a secondary caregiver but for the case of miscarriage of the mother, stillbirth of the child, or infant death.
- Clarify the existing 12-month postpartum deferment for deployment to indicate that it also applies to overnight travel and physically demanding training exercises, while maintaining existing waiver authority.
- Establish a new 12-month postpartum deferment from being required to meet body composition standards or pass a physical fitness test.
- Require the service secretaries to annually report to Congress data on the usage of military parental leave by primary and secondary caregivers, an analysis of the impact of the usage of parental leave on readiness, an analysis of the impact of the parental leave benefit on retention, any actions taken by the services to mitigate the impact of parental leave on readiness, and the number of waivers granted to the 12-month postpartum deferment policies, disaggregated by the reason for the waiver, including whether the waiver was granted at the election of the servicemember or granted in the interest of national security.
- Modify the payback period for the Career Intermission Program (CIP) so that servicemembers who participate in the CIP would agree to an additional 1 month service commitment for every month of participation in the CIP (down from 2 months service commitment per month of CIP participation under current law).
“Parental leave for military servicemembers is absurdly out of touch and outdated when compared to federal benefits and options provided by many private, large employers,” said Speier. “Our bill modernizes the military’s parental leave policies, will improve the health of mothers and children, and will make the armed services a more welcoming and supportive place for parents, something all Americans understand and that there is strong support for across party lines.”