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Heather WoltersDan LeedsLauren MaloneTom WooChris GonzalesBrittany Cunningham
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Paid time off provides employees an opportunity to attend to family and personal needs outside of work. Those benefits can have a positive impact on satisfaction and productivity at work. The benefits of paid time off, however, must be considered in combination with mission requirements. This study examines one type of paid time off (parental leave) and describes the implications of offering additional flexibility in how the leave is used.

The current Military Parental Leave Program provides guidelines on the quantity and length of time to use paid parental leave across the Department of Defense (DoD). Service members who give birth are entitled to up to six weeks of maternity convalescent leave (MCL). In addition, service members who have a qualifying birth event (or adoption) are entitled to either up to six weeks of primary caregiver leave (PCL) or up to 21 days of secondary caregiver leave (SCL). Service members have 12 months after the qualifying birth event to take the leave. Note that MCL, PCL, and SCL can be taken in only one increment. Any parental leave not used in one increment within the 12-month period is forfeited. These entitlements are quantified in United States Code, Title 10, Section 701, DoD Instruction 1327.06 and subsequent Service policies.

House Report 115-676 directed the Secretary of Defense to assess the feasibility of offering noncontinuous maternity leave. This study, sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, addresses feasibility in terms of implications for policy and operational readiness. We address the question, What would happen if the parental leave policy were changed to allow noncontinuous caregiver leave? We do not examine the feasibility of offering MCL in noncontinuous increments because MCL is related to medical fitness to return to duty. The determination of medical fitness to return to duty negates further need for convalescence; however, caregiver leave can meet a variety of familial needs (e.g., setting up a routine, bonding with the child, attending medical appointments, and providing daily care until long-term care can be established). Thus, we focus exclusively on PCL and SCL.


We addressed the study questions by reviewing policy documents that govern DoD and Service-level leave and liberty (both present and recent past). In addition, we spoke with subject matter experts (SMEs) in leave policy and commanders across DoD. Policy SMEs were responsible for either Service leave and liberty policy or force management and assignment. We asked the policy SMEs to provide information on the following topics:

  • In order to offer noncontinuous caregiver leave, what other policies (or laws) would need to change?
  • How is leave currently tracked, and how would that need to change to accommodate noncontinuous caregiver leave?
  • What administrative and logistical changes can be anticipated?

Commander SMEs are current or former O-5/O-6-level commanders from a variety of unit types. We asked the commander SMEs to provide information on the following topics:

  • How is leave (annual and parental) currently taken and managed in the unit?
  • How would noncontinuous caregiver leave affect the way a commander manages his or her leave program?
  • How would noncontinuous caregiver leave affect unit manning and readiness?
  • What challenges and benefits can be anticipated with noncontinuous caregiver leave?

In total, we spoke with 46 SMEs to identify policy and operational implications of noncontinuous caregiver leave.

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DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A Approved for public Release; distribution unlimited.


  • Pages: 68
  • Document Number: DRM-2019-U-020318-Final
  • Publication Date: 7/1/2019
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