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Marines consider 1-year maternity leave policy

A barcode tracks a Combat Logistics Battalion 26, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Marine with a prop acting as a pregnant non-combatant evacuee during an Evacuation Control Center training exercise on the flight deck of USS Ponce, Sept. 22. The 26th MEU continues to support relief operations in Pakistan and is also serving as the theater reserve force as elements of the MEU conduct training and planned exercises. (Staff Sgt. Danielle Bolton/U.S. Marine Corps)
July 18, 2019

The Marine Corps has vowed to consider implementing a one-year maternity leave policy.

In a newly released guidance for the branch, the 38th Commandant Gen. David Berger called the current parental leave policies “inadequate” and vowed to consider increased leave periods in the future.

“We should never ask our Marines to choose between being the best parent possible and the best Marine possible. These outcomes should never be in competition to the extent that success with one will come at the expense of the other,” Berger wrote.

“Our parental/maternity leave policies are inadequate and have failed to keep pace with societal norms and modern talent management practices,” Berger continued. “We fully support the growth of our Marine families, and will do everything possible to provide parents with opportunities to remain with their newborns for extended periods of time.”

“In the future, we will consider up to one year leaves-of-absence for mothers to remain with their children before returning to full duty to complete their service obligations,” Berger wrote.

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Last year, the Marine Corps increased its policy for paternal leave, allowing new fathers to take 14 days of leave instead of 10.

The standard for maternity leave is 12 weeks, as mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. However, the mandated leave is unpaid, but does protect the job of the employee. It’s not clear how long the Marine Corps leave could be paid, if at all.

The Marine Corps would make a significant leap above the law and any company in the private sector if it offered a year-long leave of absence for new parents.

The American company offering the longest parental leave policy is Hewlett Packard Enterprise, who introduced a six month, 100 percent paid period of leave for new parents, Quartz reported in April.

Increasing parental leave is one of the benefits previously considered by branch leaders in an effort to increase retention, as all branches are struggling to meet recruiting numbers.

In 2015, the Secretary of the Navy at the time, Ray Mabus, implemented an increase to the maternity leave policy that tripled the time period from six to 18 weeks, Military.com reported. The change was one of numerous that Mabus implemented to support women in the Navy.

However, in 2016 the Pentagon dialed down the change, and changed all branch parental leave policies to 12 weeks of leave.

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It’s not clear whether or not the Pentagon would leave a one-year leave of absence in the Marine Corps when the other branches would have comparatively worse policies.