Maternity Leave Bill Passes State Senate

Maternity Leave Bill Passes State Senate

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A bill that would increase the amount of unpaid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 20 weeks passed out of the Senate, Monday, March 21. Senate Bill 549 by State Senator David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, failed a Senate vote one week prior to it passing on March 21 with a vote of 31 to 8, according to an article published by KGOU.

The Journal Record’s Catherine Sweeney reports Holt said he believes the House will probably make changes to the legislation in hopes of making it “more palatable,” either by making the unpaid provision more specific or by shortening the length of leave permitted.

Holt spoke during the Senate hearing and said that Oklahoma should compensate workers with competitive benefits since they state cannot compete with competitive wages. On March 15, the bill failed on the floor with a vote of 20 in favor to 22 opposed.

Many human resource consults have endorsed this bill. Heidi Hartman, consulting president for Luna Sol, believes flexibility is becoming more important for employees in the private sector. She said people are more comfortable talking about time off policies and that all companies are offering much more generous leave then when she began her career two decades ago.

She added that this is particularly true for companies who want to keep “good folks” and for millennials.

“Boomers would say, ‘We’re going to work like a dog, and you’re going to recognize me,’” Hartman said.

She also said that Generation X and millennial workers watched their parents work with this attitude and saw how they would still be laid off despite their hard work. It influenced them and now when they enter the working world, they want more time off and not just for maternity leave. Companies have begun discovering that letting people off for volunteer or nonprofit work is proving to be successful.

“Those things are becoming more and more important,” Hartman said.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs’, Jonathan Small argued against the bill, saying he belies it could cause logistical problems for agencies.

“There’s no doubt that the proposal is well-intentioned, but it would significantly hamstring the availability of core government function to keep core positions staffed, which would directly impact Oklahomans depending on those services,” Small said.

The bill’s title was stricken, which means the Senate will have another opportunity to vote on it again if it passes through the House.

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