Oklahoma Senate supports Garvin’s paid maternity leave for state employees

Oklahoma City – A measure described in a legislative press release as designed “to better support mothers [working] in Oklahoma’s state agencies passed out of the Senate” last Thursday, March 9.

State Senator Jessica Garvin’s Senate Bill 193 would provide six weeks of paid maternity leave for full-time employees, following the birth or adoption of a child.

“Through our pandemic working groups and interim studies, like mine last fall, we’ve learned there are major issues impacting our state’s workforce, especially women who have been the largest population to leave the workforce in recent years,” said Garvin, R-Duncan.

“In my study, we examined what issues cause so many women to leave the workforce. Not having paid maternity leave was one of the main reasons. We don’t want to force Oklahoma mothers to choose between their career and having a family or taking enough time in those vital first weeks to care for their newborn.”

To qualify for the leave, mothers would have to be employed by the state government for at least two years prior to requesting off. Leave could be used for the birth or adoption of a child.

Employees would not be required to use their accrued leave for the initial six-week period but could request to use such leave for any additional time off they might need up to 12 weeks as is required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

“I’m proud of the Legislature for working to address this important issue this session, not only for state employees but for teachers and others,” Garvin said.

“The workforce is changing, and if we want to address the high turnover in our state agencies, we’re going to have to provide better benefits, like paid maternity leave, that give parents the flexibility to care for their families or we’re going to continue to lose qualified employees.”

Garvin pointed out that employee turnover in 2021 cost the state $110 million, and a portion of those employees were women who quit following the birth of a child.

“This is a workforce development issue and one that will save the state millions in the long run. Six weeks of paid maternity leave is much cheaper than losing a good employee and their knowledge and expertise, only to have to train someone else,” Garvin said.

“There is endless data that paid maternity leave lowers employee turnover rates, and given how much Oklahoma is losing every year, I think this is a commonsense cost-savings policy and a wonderful investment in our hardworking public servants.”

S.B. 193 now moves to the House where Representative Nick Archer, R-Elk City, is serving as the principal House author.