Reserve members who are new mothers—either through childbirth or through carrying a baby lost after 20 weeks of gestation—will benefit from a recent maternity leave policy allowing them paid authorized absences in lieu of inactive duty for training (IDT).
The policy provides these mothers with 12 IDT periods off, amounting to three weekends, typically spread over three months. Mothers must take maternity absence within 12 months of a qualifying birth event.
The Reserve Maternity Leave was authorized in the fiscal year 2021 (FY21) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Points or pay will not be authorized retroactively to the passage of the NDAA.
“This policy is a tremendous step towards active and Reserve equity following the birth of a child, allowing women necessary recovery time without them risking career penalties such as lost pay or missed good conduct,” said Capt. Rebecca Drew, Deputy Assistant Commandant for Reserve.
An IDT is a reserve drill. It is a specific period of time where reservists train at their permanent duty station (PDS) working on qualifications for potential mobilization. A typical Reserve drill weekend consists of four single IDT drill periods. Reservists are under orders, scheduled for the performance of augmentation training, formal training or unit training, and are not permitted to do more than two drills on one calendar day, and they must be at least four hours long. To meet this requirement, most units schedule multiple drills over one weekend each month. For example, two drills can be held on Saturday and two drills on Sunday.
Back in 2017, the National Defense Authorization Act granted active duty servicewomen up to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, without addressing paid maternity leave for reservists. Prior to this new policy in FY21, women reservists could take time off after having a baby but would lose out on pay and valuable points that would be credited towards retirement, due to their missed trainings and drills if they could not reschedule those drills. Now, reservists will not have to choose between taking care of their newborn babies or themselves and receiving pay or retirement credits.
The new statute stands to positively impact retention rates of women reservists. Already, retention rates in recent years among active duty Coast Guardswomen have increased substantially in correlation to improved family-friendly policies.
Among a whole host of efforts to address the unique needs of service members who are bearing children or are attempting to, some of the strides the Coast Guard has made include: reproductive-related weight exemptions and lactation-associated support, such as consultants, supplies, and reimbursements for shipping breast milk.
The new Reserve policy will be enacted on the heels of another family-friendly policy which allows women within the Coast Guard the right to postpone deployment seaboard or overseas for 12 months following the birth of a baby. Reservists, who might be deployed overseas or afloat, are also included in the deferment policy. This allows reservist moms of newborns to decide whether or not to deploy or mobilize earlier.
To utilize the new Reserve policy, a member must coordinate the request with their commanding officer. The Reserve Maternity Leave policy does not include paternity or adoption leave and is only authorized for new mothers who are drilling reservists in good standing.
Questions about how to take advantage of this policy should be emailed to COMDT (CG-R55) and policy-related questions, can be addressed by emailing COMDT (CG-133).