In an effort to retain female service members, the Air Force has announced that women will be able to defer their annual fitness test for up to one year after either giving birth or miscarrying a pregnancy that lasted at least 20 weeks. The change, which doubles the current post-pregnancy deployment deferment period, will go into effect on March 6.

The new policy was written in order to decrease the number of women “who choose to leave the Air Force as they struggle to balance deployments and family issues, and this is especially true after childbirth,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James in a statement.

Stars and Stripes reports:

The ease on fitness testing for new mothers aligns with other recent changes announced by the Air Force to boost retention of female airmen, who struggle to balance their careers with having a family. New mothers now can defer a deployment for up to a year after giving birth, up from the current six months dwell time. Also, for one year, they are exempt from temporary duty and short tours or assignments in which dependents are restricted from accompanying them.

“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. “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.”

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The Air Force currently only offers six weeks of paid maternity leave, which is reportedly being reconsidered after the Navy increased its leave period to 18 weeks.


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