OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Legislation supporting mothers in Oklahoma’s state agencies was approved by the Senate on Thursday.

Senate Bill 193, written by Senator Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, would give six weeks of paid maternity leave to full-time employees of the state, after 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.

“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.”

According to Sen. Garvin, mothers qualify for the leave by being employed by the state for at least two years before requesting off. The leave can be used for the birth or adoption of a child.

Officials say it would not be necessary for employees to use their accumulated leave for the original six week period, but could request to use the leave for any additional time off they might need up to 12 weeks, which is required according to 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 added that employee turnover in 2021 cost the state more than $100 million, and some of those employees were women who left after 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.”

Garvin’s Senate Bill 193 now heads to the House for further consideration. There, Rep. Nick Archer, R-Elk City, will serve as the principal House author.