Hello. I'm a bit late with this one, but maternity leave is an important issue and I thought some Webdiarists might wish to discuss it. Last week, the National Foundation for Australian Women published a poll on the issue, and a position statement agreed to by women's groups around the nation. The co-ordinator of the project was Marie Coleman, who last wrote for Webdiary on the Government's massive changes to welfare in 2005. Her pieces were Getting traction in the welfare to work debate and Rural communities at risk under Welfare to work policies.
So here is the press release, followed by the press release in support by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. You may recall that Pru Goward, before she left her job as Sex Discrimination commissioner to become a NSW Liberal MP, was strongly supportive of paid maternity leave and even came up with a solid policy which HREOC still backs. She didn't gain any traction.
New Poll : Australians want Paid Maternity Leave
A July Newspoll survey reveals there is widespread support by Australians for paid maternity leave (76%) for working women, with an overwhelming 78% of those in support of paid maternity leave in favour of the financial responsibility being shared jointly by employers, workers and the Federal Government. 71% 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).
The survey also reveals there is a significant degree of community concern about the level of care parents are able to provide to babies and infants. While an overwhelming 93% agree in the poll that 'the most important thing for a baby in its first year of life is to have the full-time care of at least one parent', 83% of respondents also agreed that 'financial pressure means that many new mother have to return to work too soon after having a baby'.
Further, 85% agreed that 'More needs to be done in Australia so that mothers can spend more time with their newborn babies'. Of those agreeing with with all these opinions, the majority chose 'strongly agree' over 'agree'. Analysis and the results of the survey is available here.
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.
“Research shows that issues such as work place culture, maternity leave and family-friendly working conditions and the tax system can all impact on parents and their children,” Ms Gillian Calvert said.
“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, and many have difficulties managing where staff take extended leave from work. 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.
“Access to paid maternal and paternal leave can no longer be left to market forces and the new poll shows Australians now want paid maternity leave to be given reasonable, bi-partisan political consideration.
“The survey results suggest there is now strong public willingness to consider a range of financing options for paid maternity leave as an essential component to delivering productivity for the economy along with healthy family environments that support healthy parenting.
“Men were just as likely as women to favour paid maternity leave and that's a very interesting result,” Ms Coleman said
A web site representing a coalition of small business organisations, women’s organisations, and child development groups has been established. The coalition is encouraging people and organisations to sign an on-line petition in support for Paid Maternity Leave.
The petition calls upon each major political Party Leader, on forming Government, to at least to commit to the establishment an expert committee to examine and advise on the options to achieve a cost-effective, universal system of paid maternity and paternity leave for Australian families.
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.
The Newspoll survey was commissioned by the four following groups:
* The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW)
* NSW Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP)
* National Investment For The Early Years (NIFTeY)
* Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian
Media inquiries to:
Michelle Neathercote, CCYP on 0413 456 080
Marie Coleman, NFAW on 0414 483 067
Friday, 13 July 2007
Statement by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) has reiterated its call for a national, government-funded, paid maternity leave scheme following the release today of polling which shows overwhelming public support for a universal scheme to be introduced.
The poll, commissioned by the National Foundation for Australian Women, the NSW Commission for Children and Young People, National Investment for the Early Years (NIFTeY) and the Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Children’s Guardian, revealed that 76 per cent of Australians are in favour of some form of paid maternity leave.
HREOC believes that paid maternity leave is crucial for addressing the disadvantage that women experience in the workforce as a result of child bearing.
The International Labour Organisation’s Maternity Protection Convention 2000 (No. 183) states that countries should provide at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. Australia is one of only two OECD countries who have not legislated for paid maternity leave.
HREOC’s own community consultations, which were conducted as part of its recently-released It’s About Time: Women, men, work and family paper, also revealed strong support for paid maternity leave (see the paper online here.)
HREOC has proposed a national scheme of government-funded, paid maternity leave of 14 weeks, as a minimum standard, since 2002 (A Time to Value - Proposal for a National Paid Maternity Leave Scheme).
Currently, only a third of Australian women have access to employer-funded paid maternity leave. In 2007, it’s about time all Australian women have access to this essential workplace entitlement, which delivers significant health benefits for women and children.