Maternity leave will offset economic woes: ACTU

ACTU reiterates call for 18 weeks paid maternity leave, claiming it will help employers and employees in uncertain economic times

The ACTU has reiterated its call for an 18-week paid maternity leave scheme, claiming it will deliver employer and employee benefits in a time of economic uncertainty.

The peak union body’s submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Paid Parental Leave outlines what the ACTU says is the immediate economic and social need for the scheme in the 2009 Federal Budget.

According to the submission, the reform will provide a solid foundation for economic growth because it will ensure women can maintain a connection to the workforce while taking time off to have a baby.

The scheme will also strengthen the job market because it will retain skilled, educated and experienced employees and reduce re-hiring and training costs, the submission says.

"At a time of global financial uncertainty, it is more important than ever to invest in the future strength of the Australian labour market," ACTU President Sharan Burrow says.

Burrow says paid maternity leave will also provide immediate relief to families struggling to pay bills amid the uncertainty surrounding the world economy.

"Paid maternity leave means women can be with their babies without financial stress or worrying about losing their job. It also means they can return to work in good physical and mental health," she says.

The submission says the estimated cost to the Federal Government will be $452 million or 2 percent more than its current expenditure on family assistance.

Australia and the United States are the only OECD countries without a national system for paid maternity leave.

The ACTU formally presented its submission to the inquiry today.

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