Almost two years after marie claire launched its "Push It" campaign, Federal Government Treasurer, Wayne Swan, announced that a new parental leave scheme is set to go ahead as part of this year's budget plans.
Due to commence in 2011, the 18-week paid parental leave scheme will provide a child's primary carer with the standard minimum wage of $544 per week for up to 18 weeks. The scheme will be means tested and will cost taxpayers $260 million a year.
Stay-at-home mums will continue to receive the $5,000 baby bonus and further details will be released in Mr Swan's budget at the meeting tomorrow.
Federal Opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull has said that he will support the plan as long as it is affordable and does not disadvantage stay-at-home mothers.
- Wait on for paid parental leave (The Australian)
- Parental leave scheme delay 'unnecessary' (ABC News)
Mothers may get 18 weeks of maternity leave
Source: AAP via Yahoo!7 News
New mothers would be paid $544 per week for 18 weeks under changes to maternity leave proposed today.
Two weeks' paid paternity leave would also be offered to fathers under the Productivity Commission proposal, outlined in an interim report.
The scheme would cost taxpayers $450 million per year, while businesses would pay $74 million annually through superannuation contributions.
About 140,000 mothers would be eligible for the payments each year, along with an estimated 225,000 fathers.
It's uncertain whether the baby bonus would remain under the scheme. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today said "the Australian economy of the future" would see stay-at-home mums given the baby bonus, while working mothers received paid maternity leave.
The Rudd government commissioned the report from the Productivity Commission's Robert Fitgerald.
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said he recognised mothers and primary carers faced a struggle for a good work-life balance.
"It is a very tough balance and we recognise that," Mr Turnbull said.
"Now paid maternity leave is a very big issue [and] we look forward to the Productivity Commission's report. It's worthy of very detailed examination and I can assure you that I am very committed to doing more for families, doing more to assist with that work-life balance."
Australia is among just two of the 24 developed OECD nations not to have paid maternity leave.
The Productivity Commission and the Government have encouraged everyone with an interest in the paid parental leave issue to read the report and submit their comments to the commission.
The final report will be delivered to the government in February.
GetUp Launches New Maternity Leave Petition
Another voice has been added to the call for paid maternity leave, with advocacy group GetUp launching their new campaign petition. The petition, calling for six to twelve months of paid maternity leave, has been signed by twenty prominent organizations, including Unions NSW, Early Childhood Australia and Families Australia.
To sign the petition, visit www.getup.org.au
Maternity Leave Loans ProposedBy Rachael Gavin
A radical idea from an independent think tank is set to shake up the paid maternity leave debate.
The Committee for the Economic Development of Australia released a paper this week calling for loans of around $14 000 per child to be introduced as an accompaniment to a Government funded paid maternity leave scheme.
The interest free loans would allow parents to stay at home with their children for six months longer than the proposed 14-week government scheme.
Depending on the parents' income, loans could be paid from a few years to twenty years.
The Productivity Commission will present their draft report on paid parental leave this September.
- Think tank calls for 'HECS-style' maternity leave loans (ABC)
- Loans for lengthy maternity leave (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Good news in maternity leave fightBy Rachael Gavin
Some good news in the fight for paid maternity leave, as the Productivity Commission into paid parental leave wrapped up its public hearings last week.
Woolworths will now offer its permanent part-time and full-time female staff eight weeks paid maternity leave at full pay from July 1.
Meanwhile, Unions NSW and the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia have both proposed 28-week models paid at the woman's regular wage.
In contrast, however the Australian Council of Trade Unions is proposing a 14-week paid maternity leave model at the minimum wage, funded by the Federal Government and topped up to the woman's usual wage by employers.
Many of the models submitted to the commission have been met with heavy criticism mainly over the source of funding.
Compulsory employer contributions have been criticised by the Australian Retailers Association and Unions NSW, which is concerned about the effect on employers in female dominated industries.
Publicly funded maternity leave schemes, such as the Women's Electoral Lobby's 26-week model, have also caused the funding controversy.
The Productivity Commission will release a draft report in September 2008 before another round of public hearings with the final report released early next year.
- 28 weeks' parental leave sought (The Australian)
- Woolies offers paid maternity leave (The Age)
- Give us a break, demand mothers (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Call for paid maternity leave to equal army reserve wages
A $518 million 14 week paid maternity leave plan and a proposal to pay army reserve wages for maternity leave are among the proposals presented to the Productivity Commission into paid parental leave last week.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions called on the Federal Government to fund 14 weeks paid leave at the minimum federal wage level with 9 per cent superannuation in its submission presented on Tuesday.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the plan would benefit the economy by reducing retraining costs and staff turnover rates.
"Many women drop out of the workforce altogether which holds back our economy with a loss of skills and personnel, while many other women are forced back to work too early because of financial pressures at home or fear losing their job," Ms Burrow said.
"Neither outcome is productive, healthy or acceptable in a modern, sophisticated country like Australia. The ACTU's paid maternity leave scheme provides a realistic and immediately affordable solution for government and employers."
Under the ACTU's plan women would receive their normal wage level for the fourteen weeks. Employers would be required to contribute to the Federal Government's payment so it equals the woman's normal wage rate.
The scheme intends to replace the baby bonus and includes a 14 week increase to pre-existing paid maternity leave entitlements.
Meanwhile, a panel of academics on Thursday argued paid maternity leave should equal wages paid for military reservists on training leave.
The Productivity Commission will release its report next February.
- Maternity leave a must: union (ABC via Yahoo!7 News
- Paid maternity leave 'a basic right' (AAP via Yahoo!7 News)
Support for paid maternity leave
The proposed introduction of paid maternity leave has had almost unanimous support from politicians, union leaders and business representatives on the first day of the Productivity Commission inquiry's public hearing into paid parental leave.
Democrats senator, Natasha Stott Despoja is calling for 14 weeks government-funded paid leave for new mothers. "We are one of only two OECD countries without some form of paid leave for women on the birth of a child. That's absolutely outrageous generally but in this day and age it is unacceptable."Natasha Stott Despoja on Channel 7 news
- Paid Maternity Better Than Baby Bonus (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Returning To Work Affects Breastfeeding
New studies show that 45 per cent of women believe they cannot afford to take time off work to have a baby and pay the mortgage, and those who do struggle to continue breast-feeding when they return to work.
The online survey of 855 women by leading marketer to women, The Heat Group, found that 49 per cent of women in their typical child-bearing years, 25 to 40, believe they cannot afford to stop work to have a baby and continue to meet mortgage payments.
84 per cent of participants said it was imperative women had access to paid maternity leave, although 33 per cent did not believe the Rudd government would implement a scheme.
In the meantime, another study has shown that returning to work, both full and part time, decreases women's ability to breastfeed their babies.
The study of almost 3700 mothers, conducted by Melbourne University, La Trobe University and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, showed that 56 per cent of non-working mothers were breastfeeding six months after giving birth. That figure dropped to 44 per cent for women working part time and 39 per cent for those working full time.
The World Health Organisations recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for six months.
Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, part of marie claire's PUSH IT campaign, said the lack of a national paid maternity scheme meant many women are forced to return to work sooner than they would like. "It is a top concern for working women [who] are being forced to scrimp together annual leave and sick leave entitlements".
She also expressed concerns for the lack of support for breastfeeding working mums. "The Government should make it easier by enshrining breastfeeding breaks in law and ensuring workplaces have a quiet place in which nursing mothers can express, and somewhere to store the milk until it is used."
- Even Part-time Work Can Have A Negative Effect On Breastfeeding Rates, Says New Study
- Part-time work no friend of breastfeeding
- Mothers at mercy of interest rates
- Govt must act on maternity leave: survey
New report calls for South Australian paid maternity leave
A parliamentary committee says that South Australia should have its own state paid maternity leave scheme.
The recommendations, handed down by the Work-Life Balance Committee aim to help families balance their personal and professional commitments, as well as attract more workers to address the state's skills shortage.
On top of paid leave, the committee advocated flexible hours for working parents, a staggered return to work after maternity leave, and workplace provisions such as breastfeeding spaces and employer subsidised childcare.
Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, part of marie claire's PUSH IT campaign, applauded the committee's proposals and hopes that it will put pressure on the federal government to implement paid maternity leave nationwide.
Australia and the US are the only OECD countries without paid maternity leave.
More good news in marie claire's PUSH IT campaign, as the government publicly vows to introduce paid maternity leave.
Health minister Nicola Roxon says the government is "determined to make this happen" however Labor is still under fire for not introducing a scheme immediately, preferring to wait until after the 12-month investigation it's just requested from the Productivity Commission.
Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, part of marie claire's campaign, is worried about the unnecessary delay but still sees Labor's first public commitment to paid maternity leave as a victory.
Economists suggest the $3000 baby bonus, a lump sum paid by the federal government to new mothers, will be more effective if paid as part of a broader maternity leave program.
But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd rejected the idea, saying the bonus, which increases to $5000 in July, boosts the birth rate.
Australia and the US are the only OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries without publicly funded maternity leave.
- Roxon denies abandoning working mums (The Australian)
- Govt cheating working mums over paid maternity leave: Goward (ABC News)
- Pay the baby bonus as maternity leave, urge economists (The Australian)
- Paid maternity leave: overdebated, overcooked and overdue (The Age)
Federal Government Puts Paid Maternity Leave On The Agenda
Following marie claire's PUSH IT campaign for paid maternity leave, the Federal Government is drawing up plans to introduce taxpayer-funded relief for new mothers.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the Treasurer Wayne Swan and Minister for Family and Community Services Jenny Macklin are behind the first step - drawing up the terms of reference for a Productivity Commission inquiry - which will make it easier for women to stay at home and care for their newborn babies.
The inquiry will examine how publicly paid maternity leave would work alongside the privately funded schemes already in place by many companies.
A 2002 report by the then Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward put the annual cost of 14 weeks paid maternity leave for new mothers at $213million.
However Ms Gillard is assuring smaller businesses that the Government "would not support a system that imposes additional financial burdens or administrative complexity on small businesses or in any way acts as a discouragement to the employment of women."
Australia and the US remain the only OECD countries without publicly funded maternity leave.
Maternity Leave Madness
On this morning's "Sunrise All Stars", marie claire's editor Jackie Frank challenged both Liberal and Labor leaders to come to the party on paid maternity leave. "This is a joke," she declared of Australia's status as one of only two countries in the OECD (the other is America) not to offer mandatory paid leave. Frank supported Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja's proposal to offer all mums 14 weeks' paid leave through a campaign in marie claire this year. But, Frank lamented, neither of the two major parties have promised mandatory paid leave in the lead up to the federal election. She said,"If the rest of the world can do, it's time our politicians did it."
Businesses Support Paid Maternity Leave
Australian businesses have voiced their support for a national paid maternity leave scheme.
Groups such as the Australian Hotels Association, the National Tertiary Education Union and the Council of Small Business of Australia say they welcome the bill recently introduced into Federal Parliament.
AHA spokesman Bill Healy said "Businesses have traditionally rejected point-blank the concept of paid maternity leave because of legitimate fears it will substantially increase operating costs."
"This Bill addresses these concerns by introducing a publicly funded scheme.
Australian Workplace Agreements Don't Promote Paid Maternity Leave
In another blow to the Government's controversial WorkChoices scheme, a report has revealed that AWAs are taking away women's right to paid maternity leave.
The Report on Agreement Making shows that only 7% of workers signed to AWAs have access to paid maternity leave compared with 15% of workers on collective agreements.
Workplace Relations spokeswoman Julia Gillard says that the Government and Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey were "desperate to hide the truth about AWA's."
New push for paid maternity leave
Senator Natasha Stott Despoja has renewed calls for compulsory paid maternity leave and launched a new bill into Parliament.
The move comes soon after marie claire's PUSH IT campaign for paid maternity leave - and yesterday, Senator Stott Despoja wore a marie claire t-shirt while promoting the new bill!
The legislation provides for 14 weeks' paid leave at or around the birth or adoption of a child, at minimum wage rates. Senator Stott Despoja hopes the issue will be picked up by the other major parties at the upcoming federal election.
"It's not expensive, it's quite modest," she says of the proposal, which would cost $591.6 million in the first year, compared to the $1.3 billion cost of the baby bonus. "It assures workplace attachment, so job continuation and continuation of superannuation benefits."
- Read coverage of the bill in The Age
- Read marie claire's article, Time to Deliver, from our July issue
- Learn more about the Workplace Relations (Guaranteeing Paid Maternity leave) Amendment Bill 2007 (PDF)
New poll: Australians want paid maternity leave
More than three-quarters of Australians support introducing paid maternity leave, according to a new survey.
The Newspoll survey of 1200 people also found that almost four out of five people would support a paid maternity scheme that was funded by employers, workers and the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, 71 per cent supported a scheme funded by employers and employees only.
"These results clearly show this is a critical issue for many Australian families with young children, struggling to meet their work and social responsibilities," said Ms Marie Coleman, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) - one of the four groups that commissioned the survey.
The survey also revealed a groundswell of concern about the amount of time that parents spend with babies and infants, with 83 per cent of respondents saying that 'financial pressure meant many new mothers have to return to work too soon after having a baby'.
Meanwhile 85 per cent of respondents agreed that more needs to be done in Australia to allow mothers to spend time with their newborns.
The survey was commissioned by The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW), NSW Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP), National Investment For The Early Years (NIFTeY) and Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian.
The NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People, Gillian Calvert is helping with the campaign to raise national awareness about the benefits of paid maternity leave for supporting children and their families.
Although 77% of women in the finance and insurance industries have access to paid maternity leave, only 1% of women in the retail sector are covered, and 2% in hotels and restaurants: most women work part time, most are in the industries with no cover.
"Many small businesses cannot afford to pay for maternity or paternity leave. Rural women whose work is essential to the family farm have no coverage at all."
"The Australian economy needs increased workforce productivity to continue to grow and Australian families need family friendly working environments to be able to contribute to increased productivity," said Ms Coleman.
"Progress in this area would also enable Australia to catch up to other OECD countries in this area of its economic and social development."
"The survey results suggest there is now strong public willingness to consider a range of financing options for paid maternity leave."
"Men were just as likely as women to favour paid maternity leave and that's a very interesting result," Ms Coleman said
The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW), NSW Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP), National Investment For The Early Years (NIFTeY) and Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian are calling for people to visit http://nfaw.org to sign a petition calling for paid maternity leave.The coalition is also seeking a commitment by both parties to publish the report of the expert committee and to undertake to implement the recommendations of the expert committee within two years.