The Coast Guard prioritizes parents and their families, and renewing the Parental Leave Program (PLP) reflects that.
Starting Feb. 2019, Surge Staffing began beta testing PLP, which sources Coast Guard reservists to take the duties of active duty members on prenatal, convalescent, or primary caregiver leave. When a birth or adoptive parent is out on leave, a reservist voluntarily fills in for up to 120 days and gains new experiences they might have not had access to otherwise.
“PLP is incredible because it is a far-reaching program that serves many communities,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Mate Kirsten MacLean who is the acting Parental Leave Program Manager. “Reservists gets to assist with work that they might have never done before while new parents are able to enjoy much deserved time off to welcome a new child into their family.”
PLP has been renewed for another year — and with good reason. Since the program’s launch, over 410 active duty members received reservist coverage accounting for over 37,000 days of support to units. MacLean credits Senior Chief Petty Officer Theresa Joyce, ironically on maternal convalescent leave herself, for being at the helm and making the program what it is today. “Its success is a testament to her ability to take all of the stakeholders' needs into consideration and make decisions that benefit everyone as best as possible,” she states.
As MacLean notes, PLP has a wide scope of coverage to support individual unit needs. A doctor might authorize prenatal leave for up to 30 days. After a child is born, the birthing parent requires convalescent leave to recover. Biological or adoptive parents are also eligible for primary caregiver leave, so they can spend quality time with their child or children.
In order for units to receive PLP support, a member must take non-chargeable leave of 42 days or more. The number of days covered beyond 42 is dependent on medical and individual circumstances. For example, someone who is adopting would not be eligible for prenatal or convalescent leave. However, a unit with a member with a high-risk pregnancy and doctor’s orders could receive the maximum coverage of 120 days.
Members have enough on their mind getting ready for a new child, but worrying about leaving their units and teammates short staffed does not have to be one. Qualified reservists are ready to jump in, gain new experience, and contribute their pre-existing talents. As MacLean pointed out, reservists often have skills that might not be easily seen based on their rate or rank. Somebody with an operational law enforcement background could fill a culinary specialist job because of a prior civilian career in cooking. “Civilian skills can help different units in different ways,” said MacLean. “And that is something pretty unique to this program.”
When a member knows a child is coming into their life early communication with their command is vital. To start the PLP process, the unit must send in a Request for Forces (RFF) to Surge Staffing with the header “Parental Leave Augmentation” 12 weeks prior to the requested start date. Once the email is received, PLP officials will verify information, walk through available coverage, and begin soliciting for volunteer reservists. Reservists can apply in the Direct Access (DA) System. After a vetting process, they will receive orders to go to the requesting unit. Though only a voluntary, PLP has been able to fill over 90% of unit requests for support.
“People in the Coast Guard love the Coast Guard,” concluded MacLean. “From reservists to active duty parents, to units, all of PLP’s stakeholders benefit from this program. So, we are very excited to see it be renewed for another year.”
For questions or concerns regarding this process, contact CG-PSC-PSD-SSS. For questions or concerns regarding the parental leave policy, contact the Office of Military Personnel (CG-133).
- Surge Staffing Augmentation to Support Parental Leave and Renewal of Parental Leave Program ALCOAST 243/22