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Give mothers the gift of parental leave this Mothers Day

This year more businesses are offering paid maternity leave schemes to pregnant women than ever before, but the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWWA) suggests that mothers still have a fight on their hands to gain fair working conditions.

Maternity leave2009 saw a minor increase in businesses providing paid maternity leave to employees, with 53.4 percent of reporting organisations supporting the scheme, up from 50.8 percent of businesses in 2008. However Acting director of the agency, Mairi Steele, says women still have a way to go. “This increase is great news but it is important to realise that this means at least half a million women that work for organisations reporting to EOWWA still do not have access to this vital paid break.” Even those that do provide paid leave often restrict it to full time workers, Steele cautioned, which exclude many Australian women working on a casual, part-time or contract basis.

But it’s not all bad news for working mothers, with some organisations leading the world in their treatment of pregnant employees. Microsoft were ahead of the curve, taking the radical step of hiring Tracey Fellows as managing director six months into her pregnancy in 2003. Becton Dickinson promoted Senior Product Manager Valerie Kwok during her maternity leave period and set up a transition period of part-time work as she returned. Other large Australian companies are implementing job-share arrangements for new parents or developing training programs to help parents returning form leave.

Steele is anxious to explain that maternity leave is not just of interest to women, but beneficial to a whole community. “The Government’s paid parental leave scheme will mean women are able to afford the physical break they need, to safely recover from childbirth and to bond with their baby. It will take the strain off families and will give fathers the opportunity to share the leave with mothers and be more active care givers.”

Jennifer Blake

Jennifer Blake

Jennifer Blake is a staff writer for <i>Dynamic Business</i> magazine. Fascinated with the power of media, she's previously worked for Sky News and <i>The Jakarta Globe</i>. In her time off, she's likely cooking up a storm, haunting vintage stores on King St, Newtown or trawling design blogs for things she can't afford.

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