Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Congresswoman Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), and Congressman David P. Joyce (R-OH), introduced legislation today that would significantly expand parental leave for military servicemembers and make other improvements for new parents who serve in the armed forces.
The Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act would increase caregiver leave to 12 weeks, up from as low as 2 weeks for secondary caregivers in the Navy and Marine Corps. This change is in line with expansions of parental leave for federal employees and congressional staff made in recent National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs). Additionally, servicemembers could 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; and servicemembers could take caregiver leave in multiple increments, as is common in the private sector. 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 bipartisan bill has 31 original cosponsors.
“Parental leave for military servicemembers is absurdly out of touch and outdated when compared to federal benefits and options provided by many private, large employers,” said Rep. Speier, Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. “New parents need time to bond with their children after birth, adoption, or foster placement; servicemembers are no exception. 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. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill with my House and Senate colleagues and look forward to getting these provisions included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.”
“Our military’s recruitment, retention and overall readiness are harmed when a military family can’t find quality childcare for their children, or when a servicemember is forced to return to duty less than a month after the birth of their child,” Sen. Duckworth said. “I’m proud to be introducing these bills with Representative Speier that would help address these critical issues facing our military families by recognizing that accessible childcare is a necessity—not a luxury—and that both parents have important roles to play during the important first weeks that a child is with their family. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get these bills passed and to President Biden’s desk.”
“Our servicemembers and their families have earned this modernization of military parental leave policies and with this change, their benefits would be in line with Federal employees who were also granted 12 weeks of parental leave in the FY2020 NDAA,” said Rep. Bice. “Allowing military families the time to experience those first critical months as a new family is incredibly important, and the flexibility for the secondary caregiver to take their leave in more than one increment is especially helpful to servicemembers who may be deployed.”
“It is long past time that our servicemembers have the parental leave they need to properly care for themselves, their children, and their partners,” said Rep. Maloney. “Our military’s leave policy should be the best in the nation, not lagging far behind the private sector and federal government. This is the least we can do for those who are serving this nation – raising a family while serving is already hard enough.”
“No one who serves our country should feel like they have to choose between their military career and becoming a parent,” said Rep. 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 join my colleagues on the other side of the aisle in taking the initiative to change this outdated dynamic by introducing the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act. I urge our colleagues in both the House and the Senate to join us in this effort so that all of our servicemembers can enjoy the gift of parenthood without having to neglect their military careers and professional goals.”
Specifically, the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act would:
- 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).
The Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act is co-sponsored by Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Julia Brownley (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), David P. Joyce (R-OH), John Katko (R-NY), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Joseph D. Morelle (D-NY), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Katie Porter (D-CA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Deborah Ross (D-NC), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Michael R. Turner (R-OH), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Susan Wild (D-PA), Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL), and Don Young (R-AK).
The bill is endorsed by the National Military Family Association (NMFA), Mom2Mom Global, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, and MomsRising.
Quotes from supporting organizations are listed below:
“While expanding one’s family brings joys and challenges alike, military families continue to serve at home and abroad as the mission requires. The National Military Family Association (NMFA) is proud to support the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act as it increases flexibility and support to military families who welcome new additions through birth, adoption, or foster care,” said Besa Pinchotti, Acting Executive Director, NMFA.
“Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots is pleased to support the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act. This is a powerful step to close the gaps in the Military Parental Leave Program and to ensure that servicemembers are all provided universal 12 weeks of parental leave, regardless of how they become parents. This paid family leave is critical for the physical, mental, and psychological health and well-being of military families welcoming in new family members. In addition, we believe this will bolster military recruitment, readiness, and retention,” said Krystle Wallace, Executive Director of Mom2Mom DBA Global and Breastfeeding.
“Our military families sacrifice so much to keep us all safe, and they should not have to choose between their careers and experiencing the birth or adoption of a new child and that critical early bonding time. We look forward to working with Rep. Speier and all of our champions in Congress to pass this bill and the American Families Plan to make sure all parents across the country have the time and space they need to support their families and thrive,” said Tina Sherman, Senior Campaign Director of MomsRising
A copy of the bill text is attached to this press release below.
- (58.2 KBs)