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TMCNet:  Military paternity leave rules take effect

[January 05, 2009]

Military paternity leave rules take effect

(News Herald, The (Panama City, FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 5--PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- TYNDALL

AIR FORCE BASE

For new military fathers, a recently passed law in Congress means a few extra days to adjust to life with a newborn.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 authorizes 10 days of non-chargeable paternity leave for married servicemen.

In May 2008 the U.S. Senate Armed Forces Committee began a push to authorize up to three weeks of paternity leave. A compromise with members in the House resulted in the 10-day mark.

The United States is one of a handful of nations without paid parental leave entitlements secured at the federal level.

In 1993 the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed, requiring employers to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year and maintain health benefits "for the birth of a son or daughter, and to care for the newborn child," and "for the placement with the employeeof achildforadoption or foster care, and to care for the newly placed child" according to the Department of Labor Web site.


Employers must meet certain criteria to fall under the law and employees must meet certain criteria to qualify.

Although the leave is unpaid, it can be augmented with accrued vacation and sick time.

Details of maternal leave vary by military branch, but the defense authorization act sets paternal leave at 10 days. For some local service members, they already are jumping at the new program.

"I had heard speculation about paternity leave that would begin in January 2009, but I was made aware that it had actually been approved beginning October 2008" said Airman 1st Class Timothy Burk via e-mail.

Burk took leave after the birth of his son, Conner.

The policy is structured to allow the leave to be used within 60 days of the birth or 90 days in cases with extenuating circumstances. The policy does not affect servicemen deployed during the child's birth.

"This leave has helped out tremendously. It gives the service member the time to be a mother/father without worrying about taking leave or making time between shifts," Burk said. " My wife and I have been spending our time taking care of our new addition, which requires much more attention than anyone could imagine."

But paternity leave could have benefits beyond mere adaptation to another monkey on the family tree. Kelley Knapp-Kline, associate professor applied behavior analysis at Florida State University-Panama City, said both parents being available after childbirth eases mental (and physical) strains and can help both parents and the newborn adapt to the big new world.

"I think it's important for the newborn, because newborns pick up on scents and they also pick up on sounds ... Prenatally they really get accustomed to mom's voice, so it's kind of comforting and somewhat familiar to them when they're born," she said. "I think it's the same thing for father if the dad's around."

Knapp-Kline said a program of paid paternity leave is "wonderful" because it frees up both parents and can alleviate concerns about lost wages because of time off.

"I think it's beneficial for the child in lots of ways, and I think its extremely beneficial to the father."

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Copyright (c) 2009, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.
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