The move by major retailer Myer to introduce six weeks parental leave for its 10,000 full-time staff is a welcome first step towards a national paid maternity leave system say unions.

Australia lags behind the world in terms of paid maternity leave and moves like this from Myer will send the right message to government and other businesses that paid maternity leave should be standard practice.

Currently only one in three Australian working women have access to paid maternity leave and they are mostly women on higher pay in large companies.
More alarmingly only 8 per cent of women in retail and hospitality receive some form of paid maternity leave — more than nine in ten women in these industries are currently missing out.

Unions would like to see Myer’s example filter through to other major retailers and down into small and medium sized workplaces.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“Myer’s move to introduce six weeks paid maternity leave is a fantastic step in the right direction and we commend them on being the first major retailer to introduce a paid maternity leave scheme.

“Universal paid maternity leave will have across the board benefits not just for individual families but for the wellbeing of whole communities.

“There is a massive gap between the haves and have-nots in this area with so few (8%) women in retail and hospitality getting paid maternity leave, while most (56%) women in professional occupations getting some form of paid maternity leave.

“The fact that Myer, which has a predominantly female workforce, is offering paid maternity leave is a significant step in the right direction for paid maternity leave and we welcome businesses taking this initiative.

“Paid maternity leave should be standard across all workplaces, big and small and the ACTU would like to see other workplaces following Myer’s example and a national employment standard that guarantees this important right for Australian workers.

“Unions have been pushing for paid maternity leave for over a decade and we are optimistic that we finally have a Federal Government that is taking the need of working families for paid maternity leave seriously”, said Ms Burrow.