Unions welcome the historic introduction a universal, government-funded paid maternity leave scheme covering the majority of Australian women and their families.

“The campaign to win this essential piece of social infrastructure has taken 30 long years,” ACTU President Sharan Burrow said today.

“This is a major achievement for the thousands of women and men who have worked so hard to bring this scheme to fruition.

“Importantly, the scheme will cover hundreds of thousands of women in lower paid jobs with poor job security, especially in hospitality and retail where there’s been very limited access to paid maternity leave.

“The Rudd Government has rightly concluded that this money will go directly into spending on the necessities that go with having a new baby at a time when most families have been reduced to living on one wage.”

“It also recognises that paid maternity leave is good for business and the economy because it will help keep skilled, experienced female staff attached to the workforce.”

Treasurer Wayne Swan has today confirmed that a universal paid maternity leave scheme will go ahead, with funding to be committed in Tuesday’s Budget.

Ms Burrow said the 18-week scheme would give mothers time to bond with and breastfeed their babies without financial stress forcing them back to work too early, sometimes within weeks, as is currently the case.

“The ACTU and unions will continue to help working women bargain for measures to help balance their work and family responsibilities,” said Ms Burrow.

More information
Women’s Contribution to Work Valued at Last

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