08 Mar 2023
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne
Rachel Payne MLC – South-Eastern Metropolitan Region
My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Women, and it relates to reproductive health leave. Today is International Women’s Day, and as we have heard, the theme is ‘Cracking the code: innovation for a gender-equal future’ – to break the code that creates the barriers that prevent women from participating fully in education, the economy and society in general. The World Economic Forum estimates that if we keep doing what we are doing it will take 268 years to reach equality. In 2023 women’s reproductive health is still seen as an illness and often stigmatised. Normalising and supporting reproductive health is a key lever for gender equality in the workplace and in society.
Unions like the Health and Community Services Union have been advancing five days reproductive health leave for their members for some time. The Victorian Women’s Trust implemented it some years ago. Private companies such as Future Super have implemented menstruation and menopause policies that provide employees with extra paid leave or flexible working arrangements. These policies are designed to normalise these issues and ensure people do not have to use their sick leave for essential bodily functions.
Women are sick of using sick leave, personal leave and leave without pay to deal with menstruation, miscarriages and abortions. Reproductive health leave would assist women enormously and keep them in the workforce longer. This is a code cracker. We have seen it work in Ireland and India. So the action I seek is that the minister adopt reproductive leave as a matter of government public policy.