Bill extending unpaid maternity leave for state workers passes House Committee

A pregnant woman is having her blood pressure taken. (File)

In a landslide vote, Senate Bill 549 passes a house committee in a 14-0 vote.

It's welcome news for the Oklahoma Women's Coalition, a supporter of the bill. SB 549 would provide new mothers, who are state employees, with the option to extend unpaid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 20 weeks.

"So an additional eight weeks of leave at home. That is unpaid, but we think it's important because it improves health outcomes for both the mom and the baby," said Danielle Ezell, executive director of the Oklahoma Women's Coalition.

The bill also waves the one year tenure requirement to take that unpaid leave.

SB 549 struggled to pass a vote on the senate floor in March. Senator David Holt (R) Oklahoma City, called for it to be brought back up a second time, where it was passed.

"If we can't pass this I'm concerned because we haven't had a raise in ten years and now our benefits are starting to fall behind. So there will be fewer and fewer reasons to go into a life of public service and we need to retain these folks here in Oklahoma," said Holt.

According to the Oklahoma Women's Coalition, the bill will not only help improve health outcomes for mother and child, it will mean a higher likelihood for breastfeeding and will lower depression rates for the mother. Similar measures have passed in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

The leave would be unpaid, so it would cost the state nothing.

SB 549 will now go to the full House for a vote.

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