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Capt. Jeffery Sanders, poses for a picture with his 6-month old son Jeffery Sanders III recently. Parents who have a child after Dec. 27, 2022, will benefit from the Army's new parental leave policy, which gives 12 weeks of parental leave for Soldiers to bond with their child. (Courtesy photo) (Photo Credit: Monica Wood) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Feb. 7, 2023) -- The Army released its long-awaited new parental leave policy last week, doubling the amount of time Soldiers can take off as new parents.

Both mothers and non-birth parents — including Soldiers who adopt minor children, have them through surrogates or accept long-term foster care responsibilities — are now entitled to 12 weeks of parental leave. The policy applies to active-duty troops and Reserve or Guard members on extended active-duty tours.

The new rules are especially powerful for men in the service, who previously were eligible only for three weeks of convalescent leave if they were not the primary caregiver.

One of those Soldiers is Capt. Jeffery Sanders, Fort Sill garrison public affairs/protocol, who said he missed the window to take advantage of the new policy because his child was born in August of 2022.

“This is our first child and I received 21 days of paternity leave when he was born,” said Sanders, “If we have additional kids in the future, my partner will be relieved to know that I'll be able to spend more time with them.”

Sanders said the longer leave duration is great news because it will provide the father more time to spend with his family and participate in everyday tasks.

“Undeniably, this is a tremendous success,” he said. “The interests of the people were prioritized when developing this strategy. The time spent with loved ones without the distraction of work is priceless.”

The new policy reinforces the message that people are the Army’s No. 1 priority and the Army is always looking for ways to better support Soldiers and families.

In a Twitter statement, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth wrote Jan. 31 that she was excited to roll out the new policy, which defense officials believe could bolster morale among military parents.

“The [Army] recruits Soldiers, but retains families,” she tweeted.

The Army’s 12 weeks of parental leave can be taken consecutively or in separate blocks and can be used for up to one year after the birth of a child.

Things to know:

Coverage is retroactive to Dec. 27, 2022

• Soldiers who gave birth to a child, adopted a child or began fostering a child, and who have not used parental leave within the last year (Dec. 27, 2021, to Dec. 27, 2022), are authorized 12 weeks of leave, if such leave ends no later than one year after the qualifying event. Soldiers who completed their parental leave benefits according to the prior policy are not authorized the additional days.

• Active-duty as well as reserve component and National Guard Soldiers on active-duty orders for 12 months or longer are covered.

• Soldiers have one year from the date of a qualifying event to use parental leave, unless granted an extension.

• For the birth parent, parental leave is authorized after the convalescent leave is over.

• Non-married birth parents must establish parentage by following the criteria prescribed in Army Regulation 608-99 (Family Support, Child Custody, and Parentage).

Expanded policy offers greater flexibility for Soldiers and their Families

• Soldiers may delay using leave to attend military education or if they deploy immediately following a qualifying event.

• Soldiers may take regular leave between increments of parental leave or consecutively with parental leave.

• Soldiers required to defer parental leave may be authorized an extension on the one-year time limit if they are: deployed 90 days or more, attending an in-residence professional military education course for 90 days or more, on temporary duty for 90 days or more, hospitalized or in in-patient status for 90 days or more, or for extenuating circumstances.

• Soldiers may take parental leave in increments. Soldiers who take parental leave in more than one increment must request leave in blocks of at least seven days and must submit requests within the timelines established by unit commanders.

Process is consistent with regular leave requests

• As with other leave, commanders will work with Soldiers to schedule appropriately timed parental leave.

• The Soldier’s commander or designated authority is the approving authority. Only the first general officer in a Soldier’s chain of command may disapprove a request for parental leave.

• The Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army is updated to facilitate the expanded parental leave requests.

• There are two ways that Soldiers can request leave — through the Integrated Personnel and Pay System – Army, and through Department of the Army Form 31.

For more information visit Military Parental Leave Program (MPLP) - Army - Frequently Asked Questions