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Most Minnesota mothers work during their pregnancy and take unpaid leave after childbirth, new statewide research details. 

The study released last recently by the Minnesota Department of Health reflects survey data collected from 2016-2020 through the Minnesota Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (MN PRAMS). 

The research pinpointed the top factors influencing how long mothers take leave after childbirth: 

  1. Their job did not offer paid leave.
  2. They could not afford to take leave. 
  3. They had not built up enough time to take leave. 

“The time following childbirth is a key opportunity to bond with and care for your baby, recover from delivery, and adjust to life with a new child," Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a statement. "Unfortunately, many mothers do not have enough leave to take the time they need and many get no paid time off at all."

The study also offered a further view of Minnesota's racial and economic disparities facing mothers after childbirth.   

The study found white mothers had a median length of leave that was nearly two times longer when compared to all other racial/ethnic groups. 

And mothers with higher incomes took maternity leave that was on average two times longer than low-income mothers. 

Among non-married mothers, 4% reported being laid-off or fired during pregnancy compared to 1% of married mothers. 

One survey respondent described her family's experience struggling to pay bills, borrowing money and facing eviction in the months after childbirth without access to paid leave. 

"The stress of having a baby without paid maternity leave has taken its toll mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually," the respondent wrote. 

Minnesota is ranked 4th for the most expansive infant care in the country, according to MDH. 

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MN lawmakers debate paid family leave proposals 

State lawmakers are continuing to debate proposals for expanding access to paid family and medical leave for Minnesota employees. 

Democrats widely support a state-run paid family and medical leave insurance program that would be funded through the payroll tax and available to employees during a qualifying event, such as the birth of a child or serious illness. 

Another Democratic proposal would set-up the insurance fund more expeditiously through use of state surplus dollars. 

Under the plan, wage replacement would be determined by a sliding scale, in order to provide the most support to lower-wage workers. 

A Republican proposal would amend state law to help businesses purchase paid family leave insurance products on behalf of their employees. 

A tax credit program established under the proposal would support businesses who choose to offer benefits. 

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