Bill proposes 14 weeks paid maternity leave

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Bill proposes 14 weeks paid maternity leave

Democrat Senator, Natasha Stott Despoja, plans to reintroduce an updated bill which would give all working women access to 14 weeks paid maternity leave at the minimum wage.

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Democrat Senator, Natasha Stott Despoja, plans to reintroduce an updated bill which would give all working women access to 14 weeks paid maternity leave at the minimum wage.

Stott Despoja told a 'Women with Ambition' breakfast meeting in Canberra this week, that Australia needs a suite of reforms to assist working families.

No support from major parties

She said if the major parties do not support initiatives such as paid maternity leave, more affordable childcare, and workplace flexibility at the next election, 'they should be roundly condemned'.

'Australia's failure to implement a national scheme of paid maternity leave - which is available to working women in every other OECD country except the United States - is an international embarrassment, and must be addressed,' Senator Stott Despoja said. 'The major parties have shied away from committing to government-funded paid maternity leave and, thus, ensured it is not yet a workplace entitlement for around two thirds of Australian women.'

Private Bill

Next month, Stott Despoja will introduce an updated Private Senator's Bill which would give all working women access to 14 weeks paid leave at the minimum wage, on the birth of a child.

'Australia can afford it. We need the political will to make it happen,' she said. 'I call on all parties - especially cross-party women MPs - to consider supporting this important bill.' 

The Bill will also update her 2002 paid maternity leave Private Senator's Bill, to take into account changes to industrial relations law.

Introduced into Federal Parliament in May 2002, the Workplace Relations Amendment (Paid Maternity Leave) Bill 2002 provided that the pay would be on top of any existing agreement. Women working for State, Territory and Federal Governments would not receive the pay - the intent being to pressure governments to provide this, although many do.  

Women would have to work for 12 months before being entitled to the payment. It would be advanced by the Government to the employer, who would then pass it on to the employee, thus keeping the link in the employment relationship. 

At the time, Stott Despoja said the scheme would cost the Federal Government $352m a year. 

Other issues 

Stott Despoja added that paid maternity leave is a only a 'first step'. 

'We need a suite of reforms to better assist families juggle their work and care commitments. We need to consider the right to return to work part-time following the birth of a child, flexible working hours, more affordable and accessible childcare, the removal of the GST from lactation devices and greater support for women who breastfeed in the workplace, among other initiatives,' Senator Stott Despoja said.

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