How Australia compares
- Australia and the United States are the only 2 OECD countries without statutory paid maternity leave
- French women are entitled to a years paid leave and across Europe there is a growing movement to increase maternity pay
- In Britain women are entitled to 39 weeks paid maternity leave (recently increased from 26)
- Ireland last year increased their paid maternity leave to 26 weeks
- Mexico, Turkey, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Greece have paid maternity leave between 12 and 26 weeks paid at varying rates
- Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain and Sweden have statutory entitlements too, paid at more than 50% of earnings (in most cases up to a ceiling)
Resource: Canberra Times
- In Canada, there is an incredible 50 weeks paid leave – of which 35 could be taken by either partner.
The WHO recommends that women should breastfeed their children for six months. Breastfeeding makes for healthy babies; it helps reduce the chances of sudden infant death syndrome and reduces chances of a child getting asthma. Yet Australia and the United States are the only countries in the OECD that do not provide any form of paid parental leave to allow this to happen. And even the current discussion around the Federal Government’s productivity commission inquiry into paid maternity leave focuses on 14 weeks’ pay for women. So much for six months’ breastfeeding.
The Australia government has been traditionally dropping the ball in regards to paid maternity leave .. this is despite the Australian government encouraging us to have more children. Change is greatly needed and needed now. Australian mothers are being neglected and undervalued. It’s terrible that women are being forced to be parted from their newborn babies simply because they can’t afford to stay at home. The consequences for mothers, babies and families as a whole are endless. It just doesn’t make sense when the government says it wants more women to have children to increase the population.
It is time to provide a system of paid maternity leave for working mothers. Such leave needs to deliver wage replacement for women who, because of their responsibility to care for their children and breastfeed their children, cannot work. Such a system would have significant public health benefits, because encouraging breastfeeding would help produce healthier children. Yet proposals on the table are only for minimum wages to be paid, rather than the wages needed to pay mortgage or rent, living in a city with a housing crisis
Business and Paid Maternity leave
While the federal government (whether that be labour or liberal) seem to be either against paid-maternity leave or just sitting on their hands, some business are voluntarily stepping up to the plate.
Paid maternity leave is increasingly seen by employers to benefit their organisation by:
- Increasing the number of employees returning to work after maternity leave;
- Reducing recruitment and training costs;
- Improving staff morale and productivity;
- Providing a cost-effective means of retaining skilled staff; and
- Improving organisational efficiency through the benefits of long service, eg, institutional memory, industry knowledge, networks and contacts.
Although, in a labour market where unemployment is at a 30-year low and where employers are looking to trim costs, particularly the expensive inconvenience of staff turnover, it’s a wonder paid maternity leave is still relatively rare in Australia.
Some examples of paid maternity programs by employers in Australia
- Myer – 6 weeks paid maternity leave
- ALDI – 14 weeks paid at 50 cent of average wages
- Westpac – 12 weeks paid parental leave (or 24 weeks half pay)
- AMP – 14 weeks
- Monash University – 14 weeks paid maternity leave, with an additional 38 weeks at 60% pay
- AMEX – Six weeks parental leave at 50 % pay, plus an additional six weeks at 50% pay if the carer returns to work.
- National Australia Bank – 12 weeks pay, which can be distributed in a lump sum, or over a six-week, 12-week or 24-week period.
- Macquarie University – 26 weeks paid parental leave, plus an additional four weeks paid leave for the partner at the time of birth – based on service
- Australian Catholic University – 12 months paid maternity leave, including 12 weeks at full pay and 40 weeks and 60% pay
- University of Sydney – 14 weeks paid maternity leave, plus 38 weeks at 60% pay
The time for action is now.
What can individuals do? … Lots
- Register with the Marie Claire Push it Campaign
- Support businesses that support families.
- Voice your opinion to your local member and other members of parliament.
Canberra Times – The Mother of all battles – 29/3
SMH – Women’s day talk won’t take care of the babies
ABC – Maternity push: Rudd urged to fund 6 months’ leave
HREOC – Unions, business and HREOC: paid maternity leave vital for Australia’s economy and working families
Westpac – War for Talent