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2008 Media Release: Unions, business and HREOC: paid maternity leave vital for Australia’s economy and working families

Commission Commission – General

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Unions, business and HREOC: paid maternity leave vital for
Australia’s economy and working families

 
HREOC Sex Discrimination Commissioner
Elizabeth Broderick, ACTU President Sharan Burrow and Australian Industry Group
Chief Executive Heather Ridout have joined forces to call for a national,
taxpayer-funded paid maternity leave scheme for all Australian women.

“In an extremely tight labour market Australia’s continuing
economic prosperity depends on encouraging more women back into the paid
workforce after they’ve had children,” said Sharan Burrow,
President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions
.

“At the moment, Australia has one of the lowest workforce participation
rates in the OECD for women aged 25 to 44 - part of the problem is a lack of
paid maternity leave and other measures to support primary carers.”

Ms Burrow says employers offering paid maternity leave estimate up to 90 per
cent of female employees return to their job, avoiding the cost of replacing
lost staff.

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick says the
coming together of the three influential organisations is a watershed moment in
the long campaign for Australia to catch up with the international community on
paid maternity leave.

"Two-thirds of Australian women have no access to paid maternity leave. HREOC
has long recommended a national government-funded 14 week paid maternity leave
scheme as a basic minimum standard for Australian women," she said.

"It is important that small and medium sized business not be adversely
impacted by the cost or administrative burden of any scheme and proposals must
not act as a disincentive to the employment of women.

"We share this commitment to Australian women - paid maternity leave must
become a reality, and we will work together to assist the Productivity
Commission to develop a well-considered, well-modelled system of paid
leave."

Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout said the Ai
Group supports an appropriate period of publicly funded paid maternity leave
consistent with community and international standards and at the level of the
federal minimum wage.

“There is no doubt that a national maternity leave scheme would
deliver tangible benefits to business, employees and to the broader economy and
society and, of course, for the children themselves,” she said.

“In addition, such a scheme would help keep women linked to the
workforce and demonstrate formal recognition of the opportunity costs facing
women in terms of lost income and interrupted careers when they choose to have
children. It would also demonstrate that the dual roles of working women as
mothers and employees is recognised and valued.”

The ACTU, AIG and HREOC will be making individual submissions to the
Productivity Commission, currently examining the merits of a national scheme on
behalf of the federal government. A joint opinion piece by all three
organisations on paid maternity leave appears today in The Age newspaper.

Media Contacts:

ACTU: Giulia Baggio 0409 141 038,

HREOC: Paul Oliver 0408
469 347,

AIG: Tony Melville 0419 190 347