OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill Thursday that would provide six weeks of paid leave for full-time female employees after a child is born or adopted.
Senate Bill 193 would require the maternity leave as an option to individuals who have been employed by the state for at least two years.
“There’s so much data out there that shows that people are more likely to come back into the workforce after they’ve had a child if they’ve had some extended time off. [This bill] is going to help reduce turnover for our state agencies. It’s going to give time for families to bond and women time to really recover after having a child or even adoption,” said Garvin.
The author of the bill, Republican Senator Jessica Garvin, said she doesn’t want mothers to have to choose between their family and career.
“[There would be ] a lot of benefits, not only for families but also for the state. And I hope that we can get it done this session,” she added.
While it sailed through the morning Senate Legislative session with a vote of 33-14 and will head to the House of Representatives for consideration, some debate from the floor spurred concern around downplaying childbirth and the post-partum effects on moms.
“Don’t make it the utopian job in Oklahoma,” said Senator Rob Standridge, later explaining his concern that the move could enhance a perception of government workers above private sector workers.
“Many of those either [who] own, manage or work for small companies that right now are financially struggling, have trouble finding workforce [and] certainly can’t afford to pay six weeks paid maternity leave.”
“What this bill tried to do was get the money and that’s fine. So you could create a child tax credit that then helps every parent, every new parent,” he added.
“We’re asking to give something that quite frankly may not be ours to give, to all employees to have 6 weeks paid vacation,” said Senator Shane Jett in his early debate from the floor.
Jett also clarified his comments in the afternoon session saying his perspective was in consideration of Oklahomans who would not have access to the same benefits.
“I would like to express sincere regret for an unfortunate turn of phrase used during my debate,” he said from the floor Thursday afternoon.
“I am keenly aware of the weeks of recovery that comes after pregnancy [and] I have tremendous respect for women and it was not intended to be disrespectful or to be disingenuous. It was a turn of phrase that I didn’t even know I said until I reviewed the video,” he added in an interview with KFOR.
“[But], I think my inadvertent faux pas or turn of phrase that was unintended has sparked maybe a healthy discussion about these very issues,” he said.
“Remember we’re spending money that belongs to all of Oklahoma [and consider] how can we justly and in a method that really is equal to everyone across the state, underscore the value that Oklahoma has for life, not just for the life of the baby, but the mother and the ancillary costs and expenses that come with it,” he added.
Senator Garvin said she believes her legislation will reduce employee turnover inside state agencies.
The will now head to the House for consideration.