Work–family issues are integral to Australia’s future economic and social prosperity.
The BCA has previously highlighted the need for Australia to maintain the level of workforce participation if living standards are not to decline as the population ages, and has drawn attention to the barriers that exist for those groups of working age currently under-represented in the workforce.
One of the largest such groups comprises women of child-bearing age, who typically find the costs of workforce participation too high and the difficulties of juggling parenthood and work excessive. As a society we need to find ways that make their participation in the workforce easier.
Financial security and the capacity to plan ahead financially are critical. It is well accepted that access to paid maternity leave, together with reasonably priced and quality childcare, support for breastfeeding and flexible work arrangements, including carer’s leave, are part of the patchwork of policies needed to support effective and willing participation by women with family aspirations or responsibilities in the workforce.
In recognition of this, and the increased financial need experienced by many lower and middle income groups to continued dual incomes as the cost of living and housing increases, we support proposals such as the introduction of a universal federally-funded income replacement scheme to enable all Australian women to have 14 weeks paid absence from work after the birth of a child, with access to continued unpaid leave up to 12 months. The payment should be made at the minimum wage, with voluntary top-ups to actual wage rates as employers agree.