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Almost half denied unpaid maternity leave

SmartCompany /

As speculation mounts that Prime Minister John Howard is about to announce a new tax-payer funded paid maternity leave scheme, a new study has found that almost half of pregnant women do not have access to unpaid maternity leave.

The study by the University of Melbourne’s Key Centre for Women’s Health in Society found that 40% of the 165 surveyed did not have access to unpaid maternity leave, despite the guarantee in federal workplace laws.

The report also found that one in five pregnant women, across all skills and salary levels, reported being discriminated against and had trouble negotiating leave arrangements with their employers.

As SmartCompany reported last week, both parties have promised to extend unpaid leave for new parents.

Women are entitled to 52 weeks unpaid maternity leave, whether they are part time, fulltime or casual employees. But 54% of women were forced to use sick leave, annual leave or go without income after childbirth, according to the study reported in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetics & Gynaecology.

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