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Posts Tagged ‘paid maternity leave’

“… what I am saying to you loud and clear today is that this Australian Government believes the time has come to bite the bullet on this and we intend to do so..” 

I like the sound of this phrase from the Prime Minister, I like the way the Productivity Commission angled its report into support for parents with newborn children, and I really like the sound of a proper maternity leave scheme in this country!

From here:

Productivity Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald was unapologetic about the proposal to pay working mothers more, arguing: “This is a workplace entitlement. It is not a welfare measure.”

And in their own words from the Productivity Commission:

The more that parental leave arrangements mimic those that exist as part of routine employment contracts, the more they will be seen by employers and employees as standard employment arrangements, with the dual effect of:

Promoting employment continuity and workplace retention (thus helping to preserve job and employer-specific skills that would be reduced if parents were to resign or move to another employer) and reducing training costs for employers signalling that looking after children while still being employed is just a normal part of working life.

Eva Cox is spot on in a piece today for Crikey (they don’t offer free content or I’d link to it):

This report takes nothing from those not in paid work, and some more who are still not eligible but adds a substantial payment to those mainly low paid workers, often part time or regular casuals, who had the most difficulty in bargaining for any paid leave. They will now be more likely to be able to take time off. These include most of the 16% who now return to work within the first three months.

It also includes for the first time two weeks for fathers on a use it or lose it basis. Of course, there are gaps: too many workers still miss out, six months would have been better and seeking top ups to real replacements are still an issue, but it is a huge first step, if we get it!

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The Rudd Government has asked the Productivity Commission to examine ways the federal government can provide improved support for parents and their newborns. This involves several facets but most significantly  opening up the case for paid maternity, paternity and parental leave. (Terms of reference here).

We must keep the momentum going, there will be lots of counter-arguments that we can’t afford such a scheme even though all other OECD countries can (bar the United States of America which is as slow as us). Public hearings are being held and submissions are being sought. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick is supporting, as a minimum, a government-funded 14 week paid maternity leave scheme paid with two weeks paid paternity leave, at the level of the federal minimum wage. She has a post on her campaign here, it might be worth adding a comment of support.

I’ve talked about maternity leave before, so to quote my lazy self:

I know maternity leave can divide some mothers because there are lots of expenses faced by parents in addition to maternity leave but remember this –

  • we as a society have children, but it is women and only women who have to leave the workforce to give birth and provide the baby’s first nurturing and who consequently suffer that loss of income and workplace entitlements;  
  • Australia and the United States are the only two OECD countries left without a national maternity leave scheme (so you know, other countries are managing to provide this scheme without their economies falling apart or mass sackings of women by discriminatory employers);
  • not all working mothers are well-paid mothers, some are working poor and they are most likely to be without paid maternity leave; 
  • birth and caring for a baby are extraordinarily exhausting (but also special) experiences and all working women, not just the ones in a good negotiating position deserve the right to recover from and enjoy these times.   

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