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ERA: It’s time to modernise the Commonwealth Maternity Leave Act

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Maternity Leave

The largest alliance of women’s groups in Australia, the Equality Rights Alliance (ERA), has called on the federal Public Service Commission to modernise the Maternity Leave Act covering Commonwealth employees, so it enables gender equality.

“The Maternity Leave Act should better reflect the realities of modern parenting and the needs of diverse families,” said ERA Convenor, Helen Dalley-Fisher.

The Public Service Commission is reviewing the Maternity Leave Act (Commonwealth Employees) 1973 with submissions due tomorrow, Friday February 5. This review comes at a critical time, as the Government looks to reform its workplace culture in the wake of the Brittany Higgins revelations and the Setting the Standard report by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

“The Act was a game-changer in its time, setting up opportunities for public sector agencies to develop stronger employment agreements, it’s now in need of a reset to reflect developments in paid parental provisions and differences across departments and agencies.

“Almost fifty years on, the Act must set new standards so the APS remains an employer of choice,” said Ms Dalley-Fisher.

“Outdated parental leave provisions can do real damage, by reinforcing women’s primary carer role, with men still seen as the primary breadwinner. Stereotypes about gendered roles contribute directly to unconscious bias against women in the workplace, which in turn can contribute to the objectification and devaluing of female employees.”

“What we want to see is behaviour change both in the household and in the government’s workplaces,” said Ms Dalley-Fisher.

ERA has produced a submission with 18 recommendations. They include:

  • Gender neutral language. The approach should recognise the diversity of families and the need to redistribute unpaid care between men and women. However, we note that the use of more inclusive language must not undermine space for women to recover from birth, bond with their baby and to breastfeed.
  • Extra leave for single mothers that recognises the extra workload in raising a child without a partner.
  • That the duration of paid leave for both primary carers and partners be extended to a minimum total of 26 weeks and is able to be shared by eligible parents or carers.
  • That superannuation is paid on leave.
  • That provisions include breastfeeding support in the workplace following a soft return to work.

For more information or an interview please call Helen Dalley-Fisher: 0413 065 822 Equality Rights Alliance (ERA) is Australia’s largest network advocating for women’s equality, women’s leadership and recognition of women’s diversity. We bring together 66 non-government organisations and social enterprises with a focus on the impact of policy or service delivery on women.

Equality Rights Alliance is one of six National Women’s Alliances. We are funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Office for Women and are led by YWCA Australia

ERA believes the advancement of women and the achievement of equality are matters of fundamental human rights. We advocate for gender equality, women’s leadership and government policy responses that support women’s diversity. Using a range of methods to consult and engage with women in Australia, ERA works to bring the voices of women from diverse life situations to policy makers.

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