Unions to push for Aussie women to receive paid menstrual and menopause leave

Why Aussie women could soon be entitled to 12 days of paid menstrual and menopause leave a year as unions push to level the playing field for men’s ‘uninterrupted existence’

  • Australian women could soon receive paid menstrual and menopause leave
  • Unions to push for female workers to receive at least 12 days of leave a year
  • AWU Queensland branch secretary said men had an ‘uninterrupted experience’
  • Lawyers backing the move will push for the leave to become law in Fair Work Act 

Australian women could soon be entitled to menstrual and menopause leave as unions fight to secure up to 12 days paid leave a year.

Unions representatives say current leave entitlements don’t reflect the reality of the sometimes ‘traumatic’ health experiences women can endure at work and the legislation would ‘level the playing field’. 

The Australian Workers Union, the Transport Workers Union, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and the United Workers Union have started surveying members on the additional leave days and are in the midst of preparing a national campaign.

Unions say women experiencing debilitating menstrual or menopausal pain should receive at least 10 days of paid leave a year, or one day a month. 

Stacey Schinnerl, AWU Queensland branch secretary, said women are forced to suffer in silence while their male counterparts enjoyed an ‘uninterrupted existence’. 

Australian women could soon be entitled to menstrual and menopause leave as unions fight to 'level the playing field' for female workers (stock image)

Australian women could soon be entitled to menstrual and menopause leave as unions fight to ‘level the playing field’ for female workers (stock image)

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‘Women can get a very traumatic and painful experience every single month for every single year of their reproductive lives. If women could choose, we would not experience this. We would like to opt out but that’s not our reality,’ she told The Australian.  

Ms Schinnerl said it was a difficult conversation for a number of reasons and that she expects an uphill battle when negotiating with a ‘really tough crowd’.  

In July, the mother-of-four was the first woman in the AWU’s history to be elected to the position of Queensland branch secretary. 

Employment law firm Maurice Blackburn will push on behalf of the unions to see the legislation enshrined in the Fair Work Act alongside paid family and domestic leave. 

Lawyer Jessica Heron said the move was crucial in tackling gender inequalities in workplaces and argued women were already forced to take more leave than men. 

‘Women usually bear the brunt of the family responsibilities, often working flexible hours or taking carer’s leave to accommodate daycare or school hours, or sick kids,’ she said, adding ‘many women’ experienced debilitating pain. 

Union representatives say current leave entitlements don't reflect the reality of the sometimes 'traumatic' health experiences women endure at work (stock image)

Union representatives say current leave entitlements don’t reflect the reality of the sometimes ‘traumatic’ health experiences women endure at work (stock image)

The TWU’s Lana Goodman-Tomsett declared that women should no longer suffer in silence. 

She said female staff were forced to take strong painkillers in order to function at work and that many were afraid to discuss their pain or symptoms with their bosses. 

Earlier this year, women in Spain were granted three days of menstrual and menopause leave with countries like Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, China and Taiwan implementing similar legislation.

It comes as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Labor party would hand out sanitary pads and tampons for free if his party was re-elected.

Up to 1,500 free pad and tampon vending machines will be installed at 700 public sites such as hospitals, courts, train stations and libraries and museums if Labor is re-elected for a third consecutive term on November 26. 

He described the sanitary products as a necessity rather than a luxury with his comments sparking outcry from Sky News host Chris Kenny.

Dan Andrews (pictured with wife Catherine) announced the Labor party would hand out pads and tampons for free if his party was re-elected in the upcoming election in November

Dan Andrews (pictured with wife Catherine) announced the Labor party would hand out pads and tampons for free if his party was re-elected in the upcoming election in November

The political commentator accused the premier of spending $23million for ‘no particular reason’ and taking his campaign to a new low. 

‘Anything that’s a necessity and not a luxury now should be supplied by government for free?’ Mr Kenny asked.

‘Food is a necessity. Why doesn’t the government supply everyone with free food. What about shoes. Everyone needs shoes, they’re not a luxury.’

‘This stuff is just the lowest of low in politics.’

Premier Andrews’ cash splash continued on Tuesday when he promised new specialist health clinics for women.

He pledged to spend $71million on establishing 20 clinics across the state where all women, including Aboriginal women and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can access treatment and advice.

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