The law governing the minimum maternity leave is currently under debate, and the Government’s decision to lift the ban on the introduction of a statutory leave scheme will be welcomed by many.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) is the largest organisation of Australian academics dedicated to the issue of maternal and child health.
In a blog post published on Sunday, AIFS said the changes would make a real difference to women who work in maternity care, including those who care for newborns.
“The new leave legislation will see a significant reduction in hours taken off from work,” AIFs executive director, Professor David Evans, said in a statement.
“These changes will reduce the number of days off taken away from work and reduce workload on women who have already taken maternity leave.”
In the last year, there have been two major controversies over the minimum and maximum maternity leave that have resulted in new laws being introduced.
The first came when the Federal Government introduced a new maternity leave policy in the wake of a damning report by the ABC’s Four Corners program, which examined the impact of new maternity pay on the health and wellbeing of working mothers.
The second was the decision to extend the maternity leave period to April 1.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has previously estimated that a full year of paid maternity leave for a mother in the workforce costs $3,000.
Despite the latest changes, many workers who are on a statutory maternity leave would still find themselves with fewer hours off to work in the coming months.
It’s understood that there are a number of other factors which are contributing to the shortage of women in maternity and child care.
According to the AIFT, around 60 per cent of women with young children and 70 per cent with very young children in Australia work part time or irregularly.
Many of these workers are looking for extra time to care for their children, including extra work for childcare.
“It’s a problem that can be alleviated if we can provide more paid parental leave,” Professor Evans said.
But the current leave laws could prove more of a burden for those in a position to take it.
Professor Evans said women who take paid maternity leaves are often the ones who would have been able to take time off to give birth.
“The main thing to remember is that paid leave is an entitlement, not a right,” he said.
“A lot of women who are trying to manage their workloads have been looking for flexibility, and there’s some evidence that there is actually less time available for those women who do want to take paid leave.”
“So we know that a lot of those women will have a harder time managing the workload and a harder job when they get back to work.”