The ACTU has stepped up its push for maternity leave rights, with the launch today of a new campaign kit to win 14 weeks paid leave for working women.

ACTU Vice President Helen Creed called on the Federal Government to ratify International Labour Organisation Convention 183, which was endorsed by the ILO last year to establish 14 weeks paid maternity leave as an international standard.

The campaign kit – A New Standard for a New Century: Maternity Protection ILO Convention No. 183 – sets out strategies for improving maternity leave conditions through employer education, enterprise bargaining, safety net awards and community action.

“Australia lags behind Europe and many of our Asian neighbours in the standard of maternity leave rights. The 21st Century workplace requires a new standard based on the 14 weeks minimum approved internationally,” Ms Creed said.

“The Howard Government refuses to recognise that maternity leave is not just a workplace issue, it is a broader social issue. It is unfair and discriminatory that so many women’s careers and incomes suffer just because they have a family.”

Campaign kit author Lisa Heap, from legal firm Slater and Gordon, said less than one-third of Australia’s working women have access to paid maternity leave, and most received less than 12 weeks paid leave.

Ms Heap said the kit would assist individuals, unions and community organisations in achieving better maternity leave conditions.

Speakers at the launch of the kit at a lunch in Melbourne today will include Federal Labor’s Shadow Minister for the Status of Women, Dr Carmen Lawrence, as well as Ms Creed and Ms Heap.