The six-month deferment for female airmen to accomplish their fitness assessments following childbirth will be increased to 12 months to align with recent changes to the deployment deferments, Air Force officials announced July 14.
The deployment deferment policy, as part of the Air Force's 2015 Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, increases the deferment from deployment, short tour or dependent-restricted assignment, and temporary duty to one year, unless waived by the servicemember.
"The goal is to alleviate the strain on some of our talented airmen who choose to leave the Air Force as they struggle to balance deployments and family issues, and this is especially true soon after childbirth," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.
The one-year deferment applies to female airmen who gave birth on or after the effective date of March 6, 2015, to provide predictability with minimal disruption to airmen and the deployment process.
As dwell times for deployment, permanent change of station and TDY increase, so too will the exemption from the current fitness assessment for female airmen following pregnancies lasting 20 weeks or more (delivery, miscarriage, etc.) The service does not anticipate significant mission or readiness impacts associated with extending this action.
"Like many other programs announced earlier this year, such as the Career Intermission Program, we recognize the potential retention benefits associated with providing our female airmen options that allow them to serve and support their family without having to choose one over the other," James said.
Air Force Guidance Memorandums will be available detailing the changes to both policies in the coming weeks.
The Air Force continues to research opportunities, in conjunction with the Department of Defense, to extend the maternity and convalescent leave period, similar to the recent changes announced by the Secretary of the Navy.
Airmen currently receive six weeks (42 days) of maternity leave, in line with the Department of Defense policy. By direction of the President, federal agencies can advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave to federal employees with a new child.
"We want to make sure we develop an equitable policy that supports all of our airmen and also maintains the ability to execute our mission," James said.