AF implements new DOD-wide changes to maternity leave

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Beginning Feb. 5, active-duty female Airmen will receive up to 12 continuous, non-transferable weeks of fully paid maternity leave in accordance with Defense Department-wide changes to the policy outlined in Defense Secretary Ash Carter's Force of the Future announcement Jan. 28.

This new policy applies to all Airmen in the active-duty component, and those Reserve component service members on orders to active service for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

"This change, like many others we've made, will help ensure our high-performing female Airmen can continue to serve both their families and the Air Force," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "In this case, these Airmen can concentrate on their family without the undue stress or pressure associated with returning to their job on a short timeline. This change in policy carefully balances mission effectiveness with our ongoing efforts to retain talent."

Airmen who are currently on maternity leave will automatically be granted a 42-day extension. Those Airmen currently on approved ordinary leave in conjunction with their maternity leave are authorized to convert their regular leave to non-chargeable maternity leave, not to exceed a total of 12 weeks.

Commanders may not disapprove maternity leave, which begins immediately following a birth event or release from hospitalization following a birth event for a continuous 12-week period. This policy in no way restricts unit commanders or medical professionals from granting convalescent leave in excess of 12 weeks if a medical authority deems that leave is warranted.

A birth event refers to any birth of a child or children to a female service member wherein the child or children are retained by the mother. Multiple children resulting from a single pregnancy will be treated as a single event so long as the multiple births occur within the same 72-hour period.

The new policy also protects Airmen from any disadvantages in their career, including but not limited to assignments, performance appraisals or selection for professional military education, as a result of maternity leave taken.

"While some initiatives are force-wide, others are more targeted, but all have the same objective," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. "Where we can, we will ease the burden on our Airmen by not forcing a decision between either having a family or career. We believe our Airmen should be able to have both."

In addition, DOD is requesting legislative changes to paternity leave. "We will seek authorities to increase paid paternity leave for new fathers from 10 to 14 days, which they can use in addition to annual leave," Carter said.

Airmen with questions can contact their chain of command or local force support squadron for more details on eligibility, applicability and any other specifics related to the new benefit as the Air Force begins incorporating the changes into appropriate regulations and guidance. 

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