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Three Year Maternity Leave

Last fall, Facebook and Apple announced that they were going to offer employees the opportunity to freeze their eggs, and they expected women to weep with gratitude.  Last week, the Air Force showed up like the big, brawny hunk in the 1960s beach romp movie, kicking sand on the 98-pound computer weaklings.  Not only are they offering three YEARS of maternity leave, but that leave can be accessed by men AND women for a plethora of reasons including caring for a spouse or parent or returning to school.

The Career Intermission Program allows men and women to leave the Air Force for up to three years with the promise that their job will be there for them when they return.  They will continue to receive medical and dental coverage.  They’ll also be given 1/15th of their monthly salary, which obviously isn’t enough to live on, but still helps during a time when you’re not actively working.

The trade off is that you give the Air Force double the amount of active duty as you took off.  So if you take off the full three years, you give them six years of active duty when you return.  Take off one year and you give two years when you return.

Not a bad promise to make if you already intended to have a military career.  You get to be home for family building AND return to work down the road without worrying about where you’ll work.  There will be a period of retraining, but because you are certain of where you will be working when you return, you can keep up to date with new developments in your field knowing that you’ll use the information.

Of course, the Air Force can do this because they are an enormous entity that comes with the expectation that all workers will need to constantly shift and move for their career.  They can slide a new person into a position for a few years, and then slide them out when the original person returns.  I’m not sure how a small business could hold a spot for three years and run efficiently, or even a school, even though teachers often shift positions.  But it’s worth smaller entities exploring the idea and figuring out how to make this work on a smaller scale.

Because up to three years of leave that could be used however YOU need to use it; not just limited to a certain reason or sex or situation?  That makes me wish I wasn’t so scared of planes.


1 Catwoman73 { 03.18.15 at 7:59 am }

There are lots of countries who mandate this sort of thing for ALL citizens, and I think it’s fantastic. Living in Ontario, I already feel pretty lucky- one year of job-guaranteed maternity leave with 55% of your pay up to a (rather pathetic) maximum, and for public servants such as myself, my salary is topped up to 90%. Employers can also extend your leave (unpaid after one year, though) at their discretion. I’d have to look into it more, but I believe a lot of European countries have much better programs than we do here. It all comes at a price though- taxes are high here and in countries with more extensive leave programs. I think it’s worth it, though.

BTW- there are lots of jobs you could do in the airforce that don’t involve ever getting on a plane… if you are serious… 😉

2 Tiara { 03.18.15 at 8:32 am }

This is a very valuable step forward. Here in Canada, as you know, we get 1 year mat leave & our jobs are held (to a certain extent). Usually someone is hired for a 1 year contract. It is totally feasible to make the same system work with 3 year contract to cover mat leaves or whatever you need that time for. As a matter of fact, the woman that was hired to cover my mat leave 4 years ago ended up being hired on here & is now on her own mat leave. Essentially it is possible, I could have had that 3 years off then returned just in time for her to go on hers. It’s a revolving door of mat leaves at my work in all departments.

3 Cristy { 03.18.15 at 9:02 am }

It’s good to see programs like this finally staring up. And it makes sense that a governed entity is the one that could be the first to institute maternity leave like this. I hope the follow up with this in 5 yrs to measure the impact as I’m sure they’ll find its been to everyone’s benefit. Unfortunately, I don’t think corporate America will get the message. Too bottom line and solely worried about those at the top. Which is a damn shame as we know that when everyone profits, the system is sustainable.

4 Working mom of two { 03.18.15 at 9:44 am }

In the US we’d be thrilled with 1 yr of 55% of a pathetic max. Most of us get 0% of 0. In Calif there is pg disability/paid family leave which can total 12-18 wks of 55%, but some fool(s) saw to it that oops public employees aren’t covered. So I got zero besides the annual leave I scraped together, which meant that I went to work sick every day for months with ms etc. so as not to waste it. We do have job protection for 18 weeks (more if disabled).

So yeah I think it’s ridiculous here in the U.S. Strange that the govt would have the first program like this considering experience being a govt employee.

5 a { 03.18.15 at 11:31 am }

My employer was very flexible about maternity leave – we get 4 weeks paid mother or father. After that, you can use any accrued time or take (unpaid or converted to part time) family responsibility leave for a year. I wanted to take 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA time, and then start using my accrued time (I rarely take sick days, so I have a lot of them), but they wouldn’t go for that. 🙁 But in the end, I was able to work 2 days a week for a year (if that – I often took vacation days on the days I was supposed to work, depending on the availability of Grandma’s daycare service), and my girl didn’t have to start daycare until she was 15 months old. I was extremely lucky…but that shouldn’t be luck. That should be standard.

6 knottedfingers { 03.18.15 at 3:30 pm }

That is a FANTASTIC program! Wow…. I know of countries where this is normal for all citizens and I so wish our country was one of those

7 Eva { 03.18.15 at 3:34 pm }

Hi Melissa, I don’t know if you remember me, the last time I commented here I was pregnant thanks to IVF… Well, my beautiful son was born on November 29th (I was in labor for 48 hours, then epidural, then oxytocin induction, and in the end… C-section because the baby did not want to come out!).

Talking about maternity leave, I’ll tell you how it works here in Italy. I found some info in English on the web.

We have 5 months of compulsory maternity leave, which cover:
•the two months before the expected date of confinement;
•the period between the expected date of confinement and the actual date;
•the three months following the confinement.

You can also decide to work until one month before the expected date and then continue it up to four months after the birth of your child.

Throughout the maternity or paternity leave, a daily allowance is granted equal to 80% of the last salary paid through the social security system [INPS], including any other sickness allowances due.

We also have an optional leave:
During the first 8 years of the child’s life, the parents are entitled to take up to 6 months of the year off work. During the period of parental leave, a daily allowance equal to 30% of the last salary payment is due for up to six months and the notional contribution

There’s also a leave due to child’s illness

During the first 8 years of a child’s life, the parents are entitled to be absent from work when their child is ill. A working mother is entitled to a daily rest period for breast-feeding upon application to her employer.

At the end of the compulsory period of maternity or paternity leave, and optional periods of leave (if taken), female and male workers are entitled to keep their job.

I’ve finished the 5 months of maternity leave at the end of February, I’ve decided to use also all of the 6 months of optional leave, which means I’ll go back to work in September (but I’ve asked to work part time 🙂 ).

8 Sick { 03.18.15 at 5:27 pm }

The reason why the U.S. will never give a year’s maternity leave is because they have watched what happens in Canada. Women go on maternity leave; and while they are on leave……oops I’m pregnant again…I’ll go back to work just long enough to be on leave again.

Why should a company PAY someone to have a baby?

9 Kate { 03.18.15 at 11:28 pm }

The main reason why the Air Force can do this is because of how they are funded. At the end of the day, only government (taxpayers) can fund what would be considered reasonable paid leave. If it is up to companies, it will never happen. Weeks and months just don’t cut it.

10 JustHeather { 03.19.15 at 6:53 am }

In Finland it is possible to take 3 years “maternity” leave and still have a job to go back to.
A woman who is pregnant has to stop working 30 working days (aprox 5 weeks) the latest, but can start their leave up to 50 working days before EDD. When the baby is born, the dad can take 2-3 weeks off to be home with the family (and get paid X percent of their normal wage). The maternal leave is about 3 months long with full pay. After that is “parental” leave and the mom and/or dad can take it for 158 working days, at 80% of normal wage. In total, mom and/or dad can be home with the baby, with pay until it is 9 months old. And then dad can have another month or so with child where mom isn’t allowed any at-home-benefits, but can be on holiday from work to be home at the same time (this is new in the last 2 years or so).
And then, either mom or dad can be home with the kid(s) until the youngest one is 3 years of age and still be guaranteed a job in their current company. It doesn’t have to be the same exact position, but a job is guaranteed (if jobs still exist…with all the outsourcing in my company, there is a possibility I won’t have a job to go back to if I stayed home that long…or even if I do go back before then).

Also there is no need to accrue sick days. If you or your child are sick, you have 3 days to be at home on your own word (it depends on the company, but this is most standard). If after that you still need to be home because of sickness, you will need a doctor’s note. You get paid for these absences like normal.

I was very aware of the time I got at home with my son (and will get again soon) and was always thankful it was so long, knowing that if I was in the US, I would have been back at work very early or not working at all.
I hope this all made sense.

11 SRB { 03.19.15 at 2:49 pm }

To clarify what catwoman73 and “Sick” have said above – In Canada, the maternity benefit is a sub-catergory of employment insurance (EI). This means that each pay period, you pay into a federal fund from which you will then be “paid” 55% of your salary (up to yes, a pathetic maximum) for up to 47 weeks. You must have worked and paid EI insurable earnings for no less than 600 paid hours. I cannot stress this enough – NOT EVERYONE qualifies for this benefit. If you are a certain type of worker (e.g. contract, self-employed) you DO NOT get the benefit. If you work only 599 hours and HAVE TO stop working or are terminated, you DO NOT get the benefit. Employers DO NOT pay the benefit. Some employers *may* “top you up” to a percentage of your salary for X amount of weeks, but this is a function of your compensation package, much like 3rd party health insurance or a company car. I was freelance/contract in between my 2 children and got zero benefit as a result of paying zero EI into said benefit.

It is not a magical program, nor a perfect one. YES, we are extremely lucky to have it, and I think you will see every woman mention it and apologize for it (true to Canadian form) in these discussions. But it is NOT something will simply GET by virtue of living here. It is a social program that we pay into, like all social programs.Nobody “paid” me to stay home – I earned that money and paid into an insurance fund for it. It is something in exchange for something, much like the “time for time” proposed by the Air Force. Seems like a start in the right direction. Parental leave matters.

12 Reb { 03.19.15 at 6:27 pm }

This reminded me of the news recently that multinational corporation Vodafone is changing to offer 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, followed by six months of working 30 hours per week at full pay. (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-vodafone-is-upending-maternity-leave/). They say that the costs of providing paid leave is less than the costs of hiring and training new employees. This obviously wouldn’t be feasible for small companies, but it sounds like a fantastic policy!

Parental leave is a social benefit that allows women to continue contributing their expertise in the workplace and community, and it does make a difference. It seems to me that paid parental leave should be a standard benefit, just like health insurance.

13 Geochick { 03.23.15 at 11:09 am }

Wow, color me shocked. The military is the last place I thought this progression would start!

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