Monday, March 10, 2008


Unions press for more paid leave to breastfeed

Kate Benson Medical Reporter, smh

March 10, 2008

PAID maternity leave should be increased to six months to allow women to breastfeed their babies in line with World Health Organisation recommendations, says the state's peak union body.

Unions NSW is making a submission to the Federal Government's productivity commission inquiry to demand changes to maternity leave entitlements. It will hold a conference on the topic for about 300 workplace leaders in Sydney today.

The deputy assistant secretary of Unions NSW, Amanda Tattersall, said yesterday she had heard many "horror stories where women have been forced to express milk in the toilets at work".

"Putting maternity leave on the table for discussion is a great first step by the Rudd Government, but the debate has been modest so far and has focused on an entitlement of 14 weeks, but we don't think that is enough.

"The WHO recommends that children should be breastfed for at least the first six months but the reality is that too few women can afford to take time off work without pay. "

Ms Tattersall said Australia was one of only two Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries which did not offer universal paid maternity leave and it was "time we caught up".

"Six months universal maternity leave is the next great threshold for Australian working women. How much employers, government and employees should contribute to such a system is matter for debate but what is important is that we take decisive steps now."

A spokeswoman for the Australian Breastfeeding Association, Katrina Dorrough, said statistics showed that in 2006 181,000 women had been forced to return to work before their babies were six months old.

"They either have to … wean, which compromises the health of the baby, or they find themselves breastfeeding in the back seat of a car or taxi when their carer brings the baby in."