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Insights into Military Maternity Leave and Retention Rates: Lt. Col. Minette Herrick

Military Medicine & WarDocs present: "Insights and Take-Home Messages from Journal Article Authors"

Minette S R Herrick and Weiwen Chai

Military Medicine, Volume 188, Issue 11-12, November/December 2023, Pages e3532–e3538





We're thrilled to welcome Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Minette Herrick on our latest episode of WarDocs. A Registered Dietician and international board-certified Lactation Consultant, Minette provides important insights on her compelling research, which draws from professional studies and personal experiences. The focus is on her enlightening article, 'Increasing Maternity Leave and Decreasing Attrition Rates of US Active Duty Women in the Prenatal and Immediate Postpartum Period.' She brings to the fore the critical issues surrounding maternity leave policies and their effect on the retention rates of female service members.


We take you through the intriguing journey of the Department of Navy's shift from a six-week maternity leave policy to an 18-week one. Explore with us how this transition has significantly impacted the recruitment and retention rates in the military sector. We also shed light on critical policies like the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 and 2009 and the Secretary of Defense Leave Policy of 2016. Learn about the influence these policy shifts, including the Military Couples Caregiver Separation policy, have had on the experiences of Active-Duty married members. Join in and gain a broader understanding of the importance of family-friendly policies in the military.



Chapters:

(00:00) Extended Maternity Leave in the Military

(08:23) Military Maternity Leave and Retention Rates


Chapter Summaries:

(00:00) Extended Maternity Leave in the Military

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Minette Herrick, a registered dietician and international board-certified lactation consultant, speaks about her article Increasing Maternity Leave and Decreasing Attrition Rates of US Active Duty Women in the Prenatal and Immediate Postpartum Period. Minette explains the reasons for her research, which included her personal experience of having four children while on active duty, and explores how providing paid parental leave can impact the organization. The results of the research show that women who are allotted six weeks of maternity leave had significantly greater odds of leaving the military, measured from the time of their initial prenatal visit to one year postpartum, than those who are entitled to 12 weeks of leave. We discuss the implications of these findings and the importance of health policy in positively impacting the health of people both inside and outside of the military.


(08:23) Military Maternity Leave and Retention Rates

We discuss the changes in the Department of Navy's maternity leave policy, from six weeks to 18 weeks, and the impact it has had on recruitment and retention of female service members. We shed light on the importance of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 and 2009, which first allowed for maternity leave, and the Secretary of Defense Leap Policy of 2016, which allowed for 12 weeks of parental leave for both birth parents after a period of convalescent leave. We explore the implications of the Military Couples Caregiver Separation policy, which gives active-duty married members the option to request caregiver separation. Finally, we discuss the findings of a retrospective cohort study of 67,281 active-duty women that found increased allotment of maternity leave from six weeks to 12 weeks was associated with decreased attrition rates.



Take Home Messages:

1. Maternity leave policies can have a significant impact on the retention rates of female service members in the military.

2. The shift from a six-week to an 18-week maternity leave policy in the Department of Navy has considerably influenced recruitment and retention rates.

3. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 and 2009 and the Secretary of Defense Leap Policy of 2016 have played a crucial role in shaping maternity leave policies in the military.

4. Policies such as the Military Couples Caregiver Separation policy have affected the experiences of active-duty married members.

5. Family-friendly policies are of paramount importance in the military, helping to foster a healthier and more supportive environment for service members.

6. Women who were allotted six weeks of maternity leave had significantly greater odds of leaving the military than those who received 12 weeks of leave.

7. The Department of Defense's policy change in 2016, which increased maternity leave from six to 12 weeks, was intended to encourage workforce recruitment and retention and help the well-being of military families.

8. Changes in maternity leave policy had the most significant retention benefit among junior enlisted and junior officers, emphasizing the importance of retaining talent among future leaders and innovators in the military.

9. The new parental leave policy implemented in 2023, providing 12 weeks of leave to both birth parents, should be studied further for its impact on attrition, family dynamics, and paternal bonding.

10. Family-friendly policies not only help retain talent but also send an essential message to military members and their families, affirming that the vitality of the military family is essential to mission success.


Episode Keywords:

Military Maternity Leave, Retention Rates, National Defense Authorization Act, Secretary of Defense Leap Policy, Military Couples Caregiver Separation, Prenatal Visit, Postpartum Period, Paid Parental Leave, Health Policy, Attrition Rates, Convalescent Leave, Retrospective Cohort Study


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