The Navy may be cutting six weeks from its maternity leave policy, but women who were pregnant by July or become pregnant by March 3 are still eligible for 18 weeks of leave, the service announced Thursday.
The Navy has put its new 12-week maternity leave policy into effect, slashing a third of the time allowed for women after an August policy change that had expanded the service's policy to 18 weeks, DoD's most generous. But Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered all the services to adopt a standard 12-week policy in January.
Carter's decision brings the military's policy in line with private industry, where a paid three months off is standard after giving birth.
It was a setback to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who tripled the service's traditional six weeks of paid leave last year to bring it in line with progressive companies like Google.
Both policy changes are aimed at retaining women in their late-20s to mid-30s, who leave the Navy twice as often as their male peers.
"Women at peak ages for starting a family leave the military at the highest rates," Carter said in January.
The Air Force and Army had also been considering expanding their policies to 18 weeks.
As far as expanding paternity leave or time off for adoptive parents, the services continue to discuss the idea, which has to be approved by Congress.
"Besides the changes to maternity leave, DoD is working to expand both paternity leave and adoptive leave for service members," the Navy said in a Thursday release.NAVADMIN 046/16
Reservists may have their active-duty orders extended to cover the leave, as well. The date of pregnancy must be determined by a medical professional.
Women requesting leave should put in for both the maternity leave and additional maternity leave types in the Navy Standard Integration Personnel System, the message said.
While many women lauded the Navy's expansion of maternity leave last year, some pointed out that such a long time away from a command could affect assignment and promotion chances.
The new maternity leave policy addresses this issue specifically.
"No member shall be disadvantaged in her career, including limitations in her assignments (except in the case where she voluntarily agrees to accept an assignment limitation), performance appraisals, or selection for professional military education or training, solely because she has taken maternity leave," according to the message.