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Navy, Marine Corps Now Offer 18 Weeks Of Maternity Leave


And let's turn now to a sea change in another workplace. The Navy has announced it is tripling the length of paid maternity leave from six to 18 weeks.


The announcement was made in a statement by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. It was an idea he first floated back in May in a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy.


RAY MABUS: Support to sailors and Marines has to extend beyond the workplace. Our greater Navy and Marine Corps family is equally worthy of support.

MONTAGNE: Back then he proposed doubling paid leave. The decision to triple it was reportedly inspired by the tech giant Google, which has an 18-week maternity leave policy. For Google, and now the Navy and Marines, extending maternity leave is seen as a way to encourage the recruitment of more women plus a way to retain them after they have children.

GREENE: Let's hear from Jane Waldfogel. She's a professional at Columbia University School of Social Work.

JANE WALDFOGEL: The military doesn't get much attention as a family-friendly employer, but they've been way ahead in terms of the quality of the child care that they offer to servicemen and women. And I think this extension of maternity leave is motivated by some of the same instincts of if you're going to recruit the best young men and women, you've got to provide them family-friendly policies.

GREENE: And Waldfogel tells us that this will have a much broader impact.

WALDFOGEL: I think a few years ago people would've said, 18 weeks in the United States, you must be dreaming? And with the military doing this, this now sets a new standard which I think other companies, other employers and other employees will start paying attention to.

MONTAGNE: Even with this change, maternity leave in the U.S. remains far behind most developed nations. In Canada and many European countries, the standard is one-year paid leave.

GREENE: Now, the Navy estimates its new maternity leave policy will affect 5,000 women each year, and the Navy says it does not expect any significant costs from the change. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.