The ACTU is calling on all businesses to help fund a national paid maternity leave scheme which would provide Australian women with at least 14 weeks paid leave.

Under the ACTU model, the 14 week payment would be funded by the federal government at the federal minimum wage level.  Employers would then be required to “top up” the payment for women who earn above this level.

“The cost to employers would be very small, less than $600 per person, in most cases. This amount would be enough to cover more than half of all employed mothers,” says ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

 “This would ensure female employees have a decent period of leave to recover from childbirth, bond with their baby, pay their bills and return to work in good physical and mental health.”

“Two-thirds of Australian women have no access to paid maternity leave. We are one of only two OECD nations who do not offer this basic workplace right to women, who now make up almost half Australia’s workforce,” says Ms Burrow.

“In a modern economy like Australia this is simply unacceptable.”

“Increasingly, we are seeing more and more women return to work too early because of the financial strain imposed by mortgages, petrol and food prices,” she says.

“The other effect is that women are giving up work altogether. The cost to employers of replacing and re-training staff is running into tens of thousands of dollars and our economy is suffering from a loss of skills and knowledge,” says the ACTU President.

The ACTU will present evidence on the economic and social benefits of its paid maternity leave model today in Melbourne. The Productivity Commission will present its final report to the Rudd Government early next year.