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Expanded Maternity Leave in Effect Across Military with New Army Rules

The Senate will debate a House bill to extend maternity leave. (Source: Army photo)

With the Army's rollout of their new rules, women in the U.S. military are now able to access a new maternity leave policy granting 12 weeks of non-chargeable leave after the birth of a child.

The service on Wednesday detailed the rules as part of a memo that took effect in early February. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had ordered the services to implement the new policy no later than Feb. 5.

Female sailors and Marines who were pregnant or were part of a "birth event" by Thursday will be permitted 18 weeks of leave per a policy announced by the Navy last summer that has since been rolled back.

Airman and soldiers currently on maternity leave will be able to extend their leave to 12 weeks, the memo states. Those who are using chargeable leave in connection with their maternity leave can convert up to 84 days to non-chargeable leave, it says.

The maternity leave policy is part of Carter's so-called Force of the Future plan, which seeks to expand family support policies for troops. Measures rolled out as part of that late January announcement include increasing maternity and paternity leave and expanding hours at on-base military child care facilities.

No changes have yet been implemented to the congressionally mandated paternity leave policy, which currently grants fathers up to 10 days of non-chargeable leave after the birth of a child. Carter said he will work with lawmakers to expand the leave to 14 days.

The maternity leave memo warns commanders that they many not deny maternity leave or punish female soldiers for taking it.

"Maternity Leave will be granted in all cases where eligible Service members apply for it," it says. "No member shall be disadvantaged in her career, including without limitation in her assignments, performance appraisals or selection for professional military education, because she has taken maternity leave."

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @amybushatz.

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