Honor, Courage and Maternity Leave

150522-N-SQ432-878Innovations in work-life policies are coming from an unusual place lately – the military!

Last week, the Navy and Marine Corps upped the amount of maternity leave they offer to 18 weeks.

This from a statement put out by the Navy:navy logo

“In the Navy and the Marine Corps, we are continually looking for ways to recruit and retain the best people,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “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.”

Many experts have speculated that Corporate America will follow suit. Jane Waldfogel, a professor of social work at Columbia University, thinks so. She was a guest this week on National Public Radio, and offered her take:

“… 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.”

The United States is far behind other industrialized nations when it comes to such benefits for working mothers. There is no legal mandate for any employer in this country to provide paid maternity leave.

Even though our nation has a long way to go, there are many smart employers who already realize how generous family programs help productivity and the bottom line. Most of the winners of our When Work Works Award last year provide a host of policies that help working mothers thrive in the workplace.

gDiapers, based in Portland, Oregon, offers six months paid maternity leave and sees it as the reason for the company’s high retention rate. Ryan offers 12 weeks paid maternity leave and also provides for extended unpaid leave with the option to return back to work; and CBIZ MHM in Memphis, Tennessee, allows employees to transition back to work after having a child by going part time.

All these program provide more flexibility to employees, but savvy employers realize it’s more than a nice-to-have. In this global work world, it’s increasingly being seen as the only way to attract and retain the best talent out there. Clearly, the military is starting to get it.

“This flexibility is an investment in our people and our Services, and a safeguard against losing skilled service members,” Secretary Mabus said.

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