Maternity Leave in Australia
Maternity leave allows women to take leave of absence from their job
to give birth and care for their children. The International Labor
Organisation sets minimum standards for maternity leave. These include
a right to 12 weeks' paid maternity leave and prohibition against
dismissal during maternity leave. Although a member of the ILO,
Australia has never ratified its convention concerning maternity
protection ---- we have no standard maternity leave provisions.
Australian law entitles women to 12 months' unpaid leave and for more
than 25 years the Commonwealth Employees Act has entitled Commonwealth
employees to paid maternity leave. About two-thirds of women in the
workforce, however, are not entitled to paid maternity leave and many
working women are ineligible for unpaid leave because they are casual
Is it time to change maternity leave entitlements in Australia?
Australia has one of the least generous maternity leave provisions of
industrialised nations. Australiaand the US are the only two members
of the ILO that do not have a system of paid maternity leave for
workers. Of industrialised nations, it is the Scandinavian countries
that set the pace. In Norway, for example, women are entitled to a
year's maternity leave on full pay, two years' unpaid leave and the
right to part-time employment while their children are young.
Supporters of more comprehensive paid maternity leave say motherhood
means a substantial loss of earnings, demotion and insecurity in the
workplace for many women. Providing financial and job security for
women as well as helping businesses retain skilled employees makes
good financial sense. They point out that it is only a privileged few
who receive paid leave, and these are usually women on higher incomes.
There are also those who point to paid maternity leave as a way of
dealing with concerns about the ageing of the Australian population