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Just Pay It and Move On

6 March 2009

The subject of paid maternity leave has reared its head again.  Kevin Rudd promised it, the economy changed, the Government is reconsidering it.  They set up a commission, and that commission has now reported.  The cost of paid maternity leave, per annum, would be $450 million and would be good for children, good for parents, good for employers and good for the economy.

I’ve said this before here but I’ll say it again for those who weren’t paying attention the first time: 

THE UNITED STATES AND AUSTRALIA ARE THE ONLY TWO DEVELOPED COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD THAT DON’T PAY FOR PARENTAL LEAVE.

The way it’s discussed in Australia is that it’s some innovative idea at the cutting edge of a 21st century welfare state.   It isn’t.  It’s been the normal practice in most countries of the world for very many years now and these governments haven’t introduced it out of the kindness of their hearts;  they’ve done it because they find it makes good economic sense.  In some countries in Europe for instance, they have practically no need for childcare centres for very young children – one of the parents is doing the job.  In Australia, the demand for early childhood centres is enormous and supply just doesn’t seem able to match it.

I think it’s a bit rich the Australian and State Governments dithering about its introduction.  Their OWN employees get paid parental leave.  A number of large companies give paid parental leave.  One of the biggest department stores in Australia now gives paid parental leave.  Because it helps them keep their workforce.

As well as the USA and Australia, there are 3 other countries in the world without paid maternity leave  –  Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. 

If you want to support the push that this Government obviously needs, sign the petition here

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One comment

  1. I’m half with you here… It is ridiculous that employers lose valued staff and have the expense of training someone new, so I agree that there should be parental leave.

    HOWEVER, as a manager in the UK, I have had 14 staff go on maternity leave and only two of these have actually come back to work at the end of it.

    The last one who didn’t return was about eight years ago, so you can adjust the figures to reflect that. She was a superintendent physiotherapist at a charitably-run rehabilitation centre. I had to advertise for a maternity-leave replacement, which cost over £1,000, but no-one that senior wanted short-term work. So then I went to an agency, who found me a number of physios who were travelling, from Oz and South Africa. They did 2-3 months each, I had to provide accommodation and the agency rate was £38 per hour. As they were temps, they had no interest in long-term planning, etc, and just did the day-to-day job.

    At the same time, I was paying the pregnant member of staff her normal salary.

    As required by law, she notified me of her intentions one month before she was due to return, and said she wasn’t going to. I then had to go back to advertising (at about £1,000) to find a permanent replacement.

    Nightmare times and a huge financial cost to a charity.

    It works if both employer and employee are honest about their intentions, but can be exploited by employees who just want to be paid to be pregnant and for some months after.

    And, I’ve just remembered, a colleague had a nurse on his books who actually worked less than one year in the five he employed her. Three pregnancies,pregnancy-related illness, delivery and thereafter ensured she was seldom present!



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