Effective immediately, the Navy will now offer expecting and new moms 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. The new policy combines 12 weeks of paid convalescent leave with six weeks of paid maternity leave. CNN Money reports women in the Navy and Marine Corps who’ve already given birth this calendar year can take advantage of the new policy, as it’s retroactive. The one catch: While it’s not required to take the entire leave at once, mothers are required to do so within their child’s first year.
Still, this is a major departure from other branches of the armed forces, which offer just six weeks of paid leave for mothers (although the Air Force is looking to extend its leave policy).
This game-changing move is going to impact women who wish to serve our country and will also help ensure those who desire a family return to active duty. But more than that, it will help moms everywhere.
Mothers across the country should celebrate this victory, as it will hopefully inspire more employers to think twice about paid maternity leave. Shamefully, the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate time off with pay to moms. According to the Department of Labor, only 12 percent of employees have the option of paid family leave. Lawmakers have been fighting for paid leave for federal employees, as the current policy allows parents to take up to 12 weeks without pay.
There have been some other noteworthy shifts of late that may indicate change is on the way. Billionaire investor Richard Branson announced in June that male and female employees of his Virgin enterprise can take up to a year of paternal leave. Nestlé now plans to provide 14 weeks of paid leave for primary caregivers. T-Mobile just revealed its new paid parental leave policy for full-time and part-time employees.
One can only hope every company and organization will offer paid parental leave. Not only does it give families adequate time to adjust to their new reality, but it also maintains a stream of income to pay for necessities.
Of course, every mom should know her rights. The Family and Medical Leave Act grants certain employees under covered employers access to (unpaid) job-protected leave. If you’re pregnant and planning a maternity leave, check with the Department of Labor before going to your company’s HR department so you can advocate for yourself.