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New, improved maternity leave

By Charlotte Knottenbelt

Picture of Susan Seymour
UniSA staff have access to one of the most generous maternity leave packages in the nation, following the ratification of a new enterprise bargaining agreement covering academic and general staff.

Staff members with 12 months or more continuous service are now entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave, including 16 weeks at 100 per cent of their ordinary rate of pay, plus 12 weeks at 50 per cent.

By agreement with the staff member and their supervisor, the 16 weeks at full pay may be taken as 32 weeks at half pay. (Employees with less than 12 months continuous service also have access to some paid and unpaid leave.)

The agreement also includes a 'phased in return to work' clause, where staff returning after maternity, adoption or child rearing leave may work a reduced fraction and be paid the full time salary for eight weeks.

One person happy with the new agreement is Susan Seymour, a database administrator in the Marketing and Development Unit who is expecting her second child in October, and plans to take 12 months off.

“It's going to make things a lot easier financially,“ she says. “It wasn't easy the first time round with one child, but this time we’ll have two to support so it’s nice to know I’ll have six months paid leave, making it possible to take the full 12 months off.“

Susan has worked for UniSA and its antecedent institution the South Australian College of Advanced Education since 1989, and says the institution’s family-friendliness is one of the reasons she has stayed so long.

“The University’s fabulous as far as family and children go – if you have a sick child you can take parenting leave, if you have to take time off for an appointment they are always flexible.“

Susan says the new provisions will benefit both employees and employer. “It’s great for parents, but I think it benefits the University as well, they are rewarded by retaining more experienced and loyal staff members.“

“In other industries there are a lot of women who don’t have access to maternity leave, and a lot are choosing not to have children because they don’t want it to affect their careers, which to me is sad.“

“I definitely think there should be a national scheme rather than a baby bonus.“

Certified on July 26 by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the University of South Australia's (Academic and General Staff) Enterprise Agreement 2004 also includes a 15 per cent salary increase over 26 months for most staff. The EBA was put to the vote in June, with 97 per cent of UniSA general and academic staff voting to accept the agreement. Agreements covering Document Services and security and grounds staff are currently under negotiation. For more information on the EBA visit http://www-p.unisa.edu.au/entb/ or contact the UniSA workplace relations team on (08) 8302 2858.