Maternity leave unlikely to be introduced in 2009 budget

The global financial crisis appears almost certain to scuttle plans to introduce a paid maternity leave scheme in this year’s federal budget, despite warnings from the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner that the Government would face a backlash if it failed to get the scheme up and running.


Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told a breakfast forum in Canberra that the global financial crisis should not be used as an excuse to not implement the scheme.

“Where are we at with paid maternity leave? Is it a question of now you see it now you don’t? Will the global financial crisis… be used as an excuse to say no ‘sorry, we think it’s a great idea, but… we just can’t proceed’?”

That appears exactly what is likely to happen.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says that while he is “personally committed to paid maternity leave” the Government will have to weigh up the proposed scheme with other initiatives.

Given the ever-increasing size of the budget deficit and the potential need to further stimulus measures, it would appear highly unlikely that the scheme will get funding this year.

The Productivity Commission will present its final report on paid maternity leave to the Government on Friday. The draft report recommended an 18 week taxpayer-funded scheme for the primary carer and a two-week scheme for the secondary carer.

Parents would be paid the minimum wage of $544 a week, paid for by the Government at a cost of about $450 million a year. But employers would be forced to pay superannuation contributions, costing businesses an estimated annual $74 million.

Broderick says the Government will face an angry backlash if the maternity leave scheme is delayed.

“Will women be disappointed? Will the community be disappointed? Absolutely. This is 30 years of advocacy.

“Paid maternity leave has been 30 years in gestation, it’s absolutely time to induce.”


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