WASHINGTON, July 6 (UPI) -- Women in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps can now take three times as much paid maternity leave as before thanks to new regulations put in place by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
Mabus announced Thursday both enlisted women and officers in the two branches of the military are eligible to receive 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. They previously were eligible for six weeks of leave.
The new policy adds an additional 12 weeks of convalescent leave to the standard maternity leave allowance.
"In the Navy and the Marine Corps, we are continually looking for ways to recruit and retain the best people," Mabus said. "We have incredibly talented women who want to serve, and they also want to be mothers and have the time to fulfill that important role the right way. We can do that for them. Meaningful maternity leave when it matters most is one of the best ways that we can support the women who serve our county. This flexibility is an investment in our people and our services, and a safeguard against losing skilled service members."
A news release announcing the change said it was done to benefit the physical and psychological health of both mother any child, hopefully increasing the likelihood a woman will stay in her career.
"When the women in our Navy and Marine Corps answer the call to serve, they are making the difficult choice to be away from their children -- sometimes for prolonged periods of time -- so that they can do the demanding jobs that we ask them to do." Mabus said. "With increased maternity leave, we can demonstrate the commitment of the Navy and Marine Corps to the women who are committed to serve."
The policy is retroactive for any woman in the Navy or Marine Corps who has given birth since Jan. 1, 2015. Women may use their maternity leave anytime within a year of their child's birth.
The United States is one of four countries in the world that has no law requiring employers to grant their employees -- neither men nor women -- any paternity leave.