New Air Force Parental-Leave Policy Intends to Offer More Flexibility

Air Force Lt. Jeff Harbor camouflages the face of his son Cody, 8, during a simulated pre-deployment exercise for Air Force children called "Operation Hero" at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. (Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)
Air Force Lt. Jeff Harbor camouflages the face of his son Cody, 8, during a simulated pre-deployment exercise for Air Force children called "Operation Hero" at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. (Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)

The Air Force has changed its parental-leave policy to give airmen and their families more options for time off after the birth or adoption of a child.

Until now, the Air Force authorized 12 consecutive weeks of maternity convalescent leave to those who gave birth. In addition, 10 days of similar "non-chargeable" leave were given to an airman whose spouse gave birth.

The new structure, announced Friday by the service, allows parents to coordinate leave time between primary and secondary caregivers in a way that is most beneficial to their living circumstances.

The new policy applies to birth mothers, fathers, same-sex couples and adoptive and surrogate parents, the Air Force said.

It outlines three forms of leave for qualifying births or adoptions: maternity convalescent leave, primary caregiver leave and secondary caregiver leave.

Effective immediately, maternity convalescent leave and primary caregiver leave are each six weeks long. Secondary caregiver leave is three weeks. Every birth mother will have convalescent leave, the Air Force said.

Caregiver leave is given in addition to the convalescent leave.

Covered servicemembers having a child by birth, adoption or surrogacy will determine which parent is the primary and secondary caregiver, the Air Force said.

Designations for caregiver status must follow Department of Defense guidance, and each parent can hold only one caregiver status per birth event or adoption, the Air Force said.

For example, a secondary caregiver cannot transfer leave to the primary caregiver.

An active-duty male with a civilian spouse or partner can be designated as a primary caregiver; however, airmen will not be allowed to be designated both as the primary and secondary caregiver.

The allotted time off for each of the three types of leave must be taken all at once and cannot be split up. Primary and secondary caregiver leave can be taken any time within the first year after a child's birth or adoption, the Air Force said.

"We now have not only the most generous parental leave policy in the Department of Defense, we have the most generous parental leave policy in the federal government," Kaleth Wright, chief master sergeant of the Air Force, wrote in a Facebook post Friday.

The new policy will allow airmen and their families "the maximum time possible in the most flexible application possible," Wright wrote.

The new policy, authorized by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, is effective immediately and retroactive to Dec. 23, 2016, the Air Force said.

"If a caregiver had a qualifying event during the retroactive period, Dec. 23, 2016 to March 22, 2018, they have 18 months from the qualifying event to take the caregiver leave," the Air Force said. "For births or adoptions on or after March 23, 2018, members will have 12 months after the event to take their designated leave."

An Air Force factsheet on the leave policy is available online.

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This article is written by Wyatt Olson from Stars and Stripes and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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