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More employers paying maternity leave encouraging

Commission Commission – General

Friday, 12 December 2003

More employers paying
maternity leave encouraging

A survey released yesterday by the Equal Opportunity for Women
in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) showing that more Australian employers are paying
maternity leave was encouraging, but more needs to be done to ensure paid maternity
leave is generally available to all women employees, Federal Sex Discrimination
Commissioner Pru Goward said today.

“It is great to see that larger employers are increasingly
recognising the business case for paid maternity leave and acting on it,”
said Commissioner Goward.

“However, given the significant community benefits of
paid maternity leave, it is time that government matched this commitment.”

The 2003 EOWA Work Life Survey was conducted with 1595 organisations
(with 100 employees or more) employing over 1,268,000 people on their paid maternity
leave provisions, retention rates and flexible working arrangements.

“The survey emphasises the need for government to play
a role in providing a safety net level of paid maternity leave for all women
in paid work,” Ms Goward said.

“It highlights the increasing trend for women who are
less-skilled, lower paid, casual and employed in smaller businesses to be left
behind when it comes to balancing work and family commitments.”

The figures show, that while more businesses are providing
paid leave, the length of leave offered falls short of the International Labour
Organisation’s minimum standard of 14 weeks paid leave – with only
three per cent of organisations who provided paid maternity leave in the survey
meeting this standard.

“The scheme I proposed to the government would ensure
that all women in paid work had access to 14 weeks paid leave – a measure
that would be of direct benefit to the health and wellbeing of women and babies,”
the Commissioner said.

Corresponding figures on the provision of paid maternity leave
by businesses with less than 100 employees aren’t available, however it
is highly unlikely that these employers have been able to keep pace with larger
employers in this area.

“These figures should also be a concern to small business.
A government scheme would be of direct benefit to small business in improving
their ability to attract staff and retain female employees,” Ms Goward

Media contact: Paul Oliver on (02) 9284 9880
or 0408 469 347

updated19 December 2003.