LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- An Arkansas legislator is renewing his push for paid maternity leave for state employees. House Bill 1046 would allow state employees six-weeks of paid maternity leave, something offered by four other states, and mandatory in every other advanced country, but the United states.
About half of first-time mothers in the U.S. don't take any form of paid leave around the time of their pregnancy. The most common reason: is not being able to afford the drop in income.
Those are just two of the reasons Arkansas state representative Clarke Tucker has reintroduced his push for paid maternity leave for state employees.
"The bill proposed is for all new mothers, who are state employees to have paid leave for six weeks. So, they will be paid their weekly salary, up to $500, for 6 weeks after they have a baby," the legislator explained.
For Tucker, a father of two, it’s personal.
"Women are faced with a terrible decision when they have a baby and that's either to go without pay for six weeks, until a day care can take care of their baby, because most day cares won't take a baby until they are six weeks old. Or to have someone take care of their newborn infant while they go back to work.”
The same bill was introduced in 2015, but came to a tie in the Senate public health committee. Part of the push back was cost-related. But Tucker said the move would actually save the state money.
"Actually, all the studies show, there are a lot of private employers who provide this benefit, and they do so because it actually improves worker productivity. Turn over goes down, and from the government's perspective, women are much less likely to go on government assistance, in the year after they have the baby, so it's a worthwhile financial investment, in addition to, being a good family investment."
Ellie Wheeler, senior policy analyst at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said their data shows everyone benefits from paid leave.
"You have these really positive health benefits for the mom and the baby. Women are more likely to breast feed, and breast feed for longer. They're more likely to make it to their check-ups and immunizations and they're more likely to stay in the work force," she explained.
Arkansas Advocates would like to see paid maternity leave expanded to every woman in Arkansas, but said state employees would be a start.
House Bill 10-46 will be up for debate when the legislative session begins January 9.