A new, extended Air Force maternity leave policy is now in effect, Air Force officials announced this week.
The policy, which expands maternity leave for active duty mothers from six to 12 weeks, went into effect February 5, they said. The change was ordered late last month as part of the Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's Force of the Future plan, though the services were given 30 days to develop an implementation plan.
"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," Air Force Secretary Deborah James said in a statement. "This change in policy carefully balances mission effectiveness with our ongoing efforts to retain talent."
Before Carter's announcement, the Air Force had intended to move forward with a plan to mirror the Navy and Marine Corps' policies, which extended leave to 18-weeks last August, James had announced at a town hall meeting.
The new plan, however, instructed all the services to use identical maternity leave policies, and the Navy and Marine Corps were forced to bump their plans down to 12-weeks, effective in early March. Sailors and Marines who are currently pregnant or get pregnant before that date will still be permitted to take 18 weeks of leave, officials have said.
The Army has yet to announce when the ordered extension will go into effect for female soldiers.
The Air Force change also impacts mothers in the service who are currently on maternity leave. Officials said those women will be granted a 42-day extension. Women who have finished their non-chargeable leave and are using other approvedleave paired with their maternity time will be able to convert it into the non-chargeable category up to the 12-week cap, they said.
Officials also reminded commanders as part of the announcement that must grant the leave. They also said additional convalescent leave can be granted if a doctor says it's necessary.
"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," they said.