U.S. Marine Corps / Cpl. Hannah Hall

Marines and Sailors Are Being Given More Time With Their Newborns

An extra week of leave for “secondary caregivers” may lead to a 3-month leave policy.

Marines and sailors now have an additional week to spend with their newborn or adopted child as the services look to improve the lives of military families and entice future recruits.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro authorized the services to immediately increase the maximum amount of secondary caregiver leave from 14 to 21 consecutive days in two administrative messages Monday. This leave category is typically used by the non-birth parent, but families can decide who is their primary and secondary caregiver.

“The expansion of caregiver leave will provide additional relief to the families of Marines and sailors, further improving Marine and family readiness, as well as recruiting, retention, and overall talent management of the force,” a Marine Corps statement said Monday.

The additional week of time with their newborns brings Marines and sailors in line with their Army and Air Force counterparts.

Improving leave for new parents has been a focus of Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger since he came into his position. His 2019 planning guidance called leave policies inadequate and declared that the service “will do everything possible to provide parents with opportunities to remain with their newborns for extended periods of time.” His policy guidance also said they would consider up to a year of leave for mothers to take care of their new child.

However, the Marine Corps, like the other services, must adhere to Defense Department parental leave policy, limiting how much Berger can change it on his own. 

The increased caregiver leave is an interim step to see what problems crop up before the services increase it even more, according to the Navy and Marine Corps. The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act authorized up to 12 weeks of leave for secondary caregivers and will be put into effect by the end of this year, according to a Navy press release. That would put the services in line with paid parental leave offered to federal employees.