A national paid maternity leave scheme should be the centrepiece of a whole package of reforms to make Australian workplaces more family friendly, the ACTU said today.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said widespread community support for paid maternity leave proposals now being costed by the Federal Government could lead to a series of reforms to deliver real choice for working families.

“Improved childcare services and carer’s leave provisions, reasonable working hours, secure part-time work, parental leave for fathers and greater pay equity for women will all help employees achieve a better balance between their work and family lives,” Ms Burrow said.

Ms Burrow will speak about family policy priorities for unions at the third annual Women’s Summit in Melbourne today.

“Childcare is unavailable or unaffordable for too many families. In after-school childcare alone, there is a shortfall of up to 32,000 places nationally. The situation for working parents of sick children is even more difficult.

“Many women working part-time or casually have little or no leave available to meet their family responsibilities,” Ms Burrow said

The ACTU last week announced a plan for 14 weeks paid maternity leave capped at average earnings of $900 a week and funded jointly by the Federal Government and an employer levy.

The Australian Industry Group this week announced support for 12 weeks paid maternity leave funded by the Government to the level of the minimum wage of $431 per week.

The proposals are being considered as part of a national inquiry by Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward, who will report to the Government later this year.