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Maternity leave in Australia

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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 employees. ...read more.


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 and declining birth rate. Demographer Professor Peter McDonald claims that Australia cannot afford to continue with its system of unpaid leave if it wants to encourage the birth rate, which is presently below replacement levels. Striking a balance between affordable policies and meeting the needs of families is challenging. ...read more.


There are those who argue that paid maternity leave discriminates against women (and men) who do not or cannot have children, as these people are denied such paid leave. Earlier this month, the Australian Catholic University announced a workplace deal that in many ways has set a benchmark for maternity leave provisions in Australia. Female staff are entitled to a year's paid maternity leave, receiving their full salary for 12 weeks, then 60 per cent for the remaining 40 weeks. It is recognised as one of the most generous arrangements in Australia; they say the cost will be relatively small. Executive director of university services John Cameron says: "It's part of the university's mission - we consider ourselves a family-friendly organisation." ...read more.

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