The US Navy made schedules a lot more flexible for working mothers last week, announcing they are tripling their maternity leave.
On July 2, Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, announced that, effective immediately, women serving in the Navy and Marine Corps will receive 18 weeks of maternity leave — tripling the previous policy which allowed for six weeks.
A job in the military, it goes without saying, requires parents to be away from their family for long periods –deployments can often last months. Mabus hopes the new leave policy will provide moms some much needed quality time with their newborns.
"We have incredibly talented women who want to serve, and they also want to be mothers and have the time to fulfill that important role the right way," Mabus added. "Meaningful maternity leave when it matters most is one of the best ways that we can support the women who serve our country. This flexibility is an investment in our people and our Services, and a safeguard against losing skilled service members."
The Air Force, apparently liking what they saw, is considering expanding their own maternity leave programs. A more lenient maternity policy would follow their decision to double the deployment deferment for new mothers from six months to a year, according to Air Force Times.
Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of Independent Women’s Forum, applauded the Navy’s decision, yet warned that such a policy may not be right for every business in the country.
“IWF has done extensive research into what women want in the workplace, and we've learned that women have very different wants and needs. For instance, mothers are generally flexibility maximizers while non-mothers are income maximizers. Some women place a high value on benefit packages, while many others heavily weigh company culture such as bonus structures and employee tenure. It sounds like the Navy is making the right decision for their goals and needs, but we ought to be careful not to assume this is the best approach for all businesses. Lawmakers need to allow employers and employees the freedom and flexibility to create work environments that suit their needs."
For more information on the IWF report Schaeffer referred to, go here.
The Navy and Air Force’s new efforts on behalf of mothers deserve to be celebrated, yet Schaeffer is right in that it needs to be up to individual companies to decide how to implement maternity leave. Legislators who have tried to usher in national maternity policies fail to foresee how much damage it could do to businesses who are ill prepared to accept the costs of such mandated coverage. Last year, The Hill went so far to claim such a law could become an “engine of unemployment.”
Moms in the military, however, deserve special consideration, for the reasons mentioned above. Bravo to the Navy and Air Force for acknowledging these working mothers' needs, for serving one's family is just as important as serving one's country.