Union Alliance to call for paid reproductive leave

Leaders from across the Australian union movement will use this week’s ACTU National Congress to rally support for the introduction of ten days paid reproductive health leave as a National Employment Standard for all Australian workers.

The call follows on from Queensland Unions’ recent victory which secured paid reproductive leave entitlements for the 265,000 public sector workers employed across Queensland, adding to a number of existing enterprise agreements in the health, disability, finance and education sectors where unions have secured paid leave and flexible work options to help with IVF treatment, endometriosis, menstruation or menopause conditions.

A national employment standard for paid reproductive leave is all encompassing and will cover all reproductive health matters, including fertility and IVF treatment; reproductive health conditions like endometriosis; preventative screening for things like breast and prostate cancer; and other treatments like hysterectomies and vasectomies.

Quotes attributable to Queensland Unions General Secretary Jacqueline King:

Queensland Unions General Secretary Jacqueline King said the recent announcement of a new entitlement for paid reproductive health leave for Queensland public sector workers had been warmly received and reflected the widespread community support to establish a national entitlement for all workers.

Ms King said many workers – women and men – experienced reproductive health issues throughout their working lives.

“We know that one million Australian women have been diagnosed with endometriosis. One in six couples will experience fertility issues. And early detection of breast or prostate cancer can save lives. Access to additional leave and flexible work options will help them manage these issues better”.

Ms King said a broad coalition of unions will be calling for the ACTU to campaign for a commitment from the Albanese Labor Government to legislate a National Employment Standard for 10 days paid reproductive health leave for all Australian workers in the Fair Work Act in 2025.

Quotes attributable to AWU Queensland Secretary Stacey Schinnerl:

“As a mother of two sets of twins conceived through IVF, I feel very strongly about workers being able to access reproductive health leave.

“My husband and I undertook multiple difficult and painful procedures as part of our IVF journey, and while we were lucky to have supportive employers throughout that time, too many men and women have had to use their sick leave, recreational leave or unpaid leave to pursue their dream of having a family.

“A national employment standard will mean that all Australian workers will no longer have to exhaust their personal leave balances in order to address reproductive health issues, meaning sick leave can be kept for when you are sick.”

Quotes attributable to Kate Marshall Assistant National Secretary Health Services Union:

“When I went through my IVF process to conceive my twin girls, I had no personal leave left, having spent so much time pursuing IVF, so I had the embryo implanted during my lunchbreak and had to go straight back to work for a meeting, which was incredibly stressful. Although lucky to have a supportive employer, having reproductive leave as a right would have taken away some of the stress and allowed me to concentrate on the IVF process at that time rather than work.

“I have championed the campaign for reproductive health leave since 2020 to ensure special needs connected to fertility and sexuality were not seen as illnesses and to take away the taboo surrounding reproductive health and replace it with an entitlement.

“The HSU is committed to pulling down the barriers that currently prevent workers from reaching their full potential in the workplace and allow them flexibility and the ability to retire when they chose.

“By the time my girls reach the workplace, it should a given to see reproductive leave sitting amongst the other entitlements fought and won by unions.”

Quotes attributable to Wendy Streets National President Finance Sector Union

“There are workplace taboos that prevents workers’ suffering from the symptoms of menstruation and menopause speaking up and asking for the support they need to participate equally in the workplace. It’s vital that the NES provide additional leave to assist these workers participate and succeed at work.

“The gender pay gap in Australia, particularly in the finance industry, has barely moved in a generation. Our female participation rates are among the lowest in the OECD. We need an employment system that understands and supports the reproductive challenges of the entire workforce instead of assuming the system we currently have is working effectively.

“We are facing a skills gap in Australia and the introduction of paid leave to support workers manage their reproductive health will ensure we attract and retain workers throughout their lives and increase the participation rate of Australian women.”

Quotes attributable to Peter Allen Queensland Secretary Rail Tram and Bus Union

“The majority of our members are male reflecting the nature of our industry. It’s important to know that men’s reproductive health is just as important as for women.

“More and more men are needing to access leave to overcome fertility issues and one in four men over the age of forty are now having vasectomies.

“Sadly, too many of our members also face prostate issues, which is more prevalent in sedentary jobs like train and bus drivers who often times have limited access to toilet breaks. Providing paid leave for regular tests for prostate screening can mean early diagnosis and better treatment options.”

Quotes attributable to Mark Morey Secretary Unions NSW
“Our reproductive biology impacts all of us and the reluctance to discuss, what is often a very personal matter, can further impact on public and private lives. As these experiences are very private and personal, having to continually explain why leave is required adds to the distress for no good reason. Paid reproductive health leave is respectful of the reproductive role for all women and men and should be a resource that can be accessed at key points during a worker’s life.

“To ensure workers can access the support they need to participate equally in the workplace, the NES needs to include additional leave to reflect the reproductive challenges of the whole workforce. Such leave will contribute to a reduction in the gender pay gap and an improvement in the workplace participation of women.”

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