Commentary: Should women trying to get pregnant be given leave?

SOME PEOPLE HAVE OBJECTIONS

But how well accepted will these policies be?

In some cases, reproductive leave has caused surprise or alarm. Given the link between reproductive capacity and gender discrimination at work, some feminists are understandably wary of policies that draw attention to biological differences between workers.

There are also privacy concerns over the disclosure of highly personal issues such as infertility or menstrual pain, as well as concerns these policies could increase the cost of labour or reinforce negative stereotypes (we don’t need more jokes about “that time of the month”).

Acknowledging the potential drawbacks of reproductive leave must be part of the policy conversation. These policies must be approached cautiously and designed in a way that minimises the risk of gender stereotyping.

THE FUTURE OF REPRODUCTIVE LEAVE IN AUSTRALIA

Despite significant developments within trade unions and private companies, there are limited provisions for reproductive leave in national legislation. For many workers their only option is to claim personal leave: That is, “sick” leave.

Recent announcements by the federal and NSW governments that parents who have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth are now eligible for paid bereavement leave is a start – but they need to go further.

For example, we could explore a “model clause” for reproductive leave in modern awards or a legislative amendment to the National Employment Standards to include a gender-inclusive reproductive leave provision.

This provision would conceivably provide days of unpaid or paid job protected leave, in a similar manner to the origins of parental leave and more recently domestic and family violence leave.

We must take the opportunity of COVID-19 to reconfigure our gender contract. It is clear that without policies that enable people to work, care and reproduce, Australia will be a poorer and smaller nation.

Barian Baird, Elizabeth Hill and Sydney Colussi are professors and researchers from the University of Sydney. This commentary first appeared on The Conversation.

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