Paid Maternity Leave Tripled Under US Navy and Marine Corps Policy

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

July 10, 2015

Effective immediately, women serving in the US Navy or the Marine Corps will be entitled to 18 weeks of paid maternity leave after childbirth. Previously, they could receive up to six weeks of paid maternity leave. The policy change also will apply retroactively to any woman who has given birth since January 1, 2015.

In a statement announcing the new policy, US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus cited retention as a key reason for the decision to triple the amount of paid leave for women serving on active duty. Mabus said, "We have incredibly talented women. It's a safeguard against losing skilled service members."

The 18-week figure was inspired by Google's maternity leave policy, according to a Navy spokesman. He said that when Google increased its maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks in 2007, the company found that it reduced the number of new mothers who were leaving the company by half. There are more than 57,000 active-duty women in the Navy and more than 14,100 in the Marine Corps.

Men serving in the Navy and Marine Corps are unaffected by the change. Married servicemen currently receive 10 days of leave and the days must be taken consecutively. The maternity leave policy does not require women to take their 18 weeks in succession. The Air Force, which offers six weeks paid maternity leave, has said it is considering following the Navy's lead and tripling its policy.

The US is reportedly one of only two nations in the world not to guarantee paid maternity leave for working mothers. Papal New Guinea is the other.

However, at least three states require private employers to provide partial pay to employees who use maternity leave:

  • California;
  • New Jersey; and
  • Rhode Island.

These programs are financed by employees' payroll deductions.

On January 15, President Obama signed an executive order directing federal government agencies to provide up to six weeks of paid sick leave to federal workers with a new child. The order applies to the birth or adoption of a child or other eligible sick leave uses. The President also urged Congress at this year's State of the Union address to pass a law providing paid maternity leave or paid sick leave. However, passage of such a law is considered unlikely in the current Congress.