HACSU and the union movement have a long history of leading the case for change in so many ways. From the early days of the eight-hour working day, weekends and holiday pay to the more recent movements around paid parental leave and marriage equality, we are proud of our role as trail blazers. We are always asking the question, “How can we make working people’s lives better?”
The claim for Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave is the next step on this path of improved working conditions for all. It forms an important part of our arsenal in tackling systemic gender inequality in our workplaces. While reproductive health issues can affect everyone, it is disproportionately women and trans people who are adversely affected by the status quo in getting the time they need to address their reproductive health concerns, having to ‘use up’ their other leave. Our claim will address that.
So, what are we asking for?
HACSU has included a claim for five days of paid Reproductive Health and Wellbeing leave in our current Mental Health Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. The entitlement would be available to all workers and would cover everything from severe menstrual pain to vasectomies to menopause to gender transitioning therapies. The claim doesn’t end there though. We are also asking that employers ensure that their staff have access to flexible and reasonable work arrangements to help manage symptoms and various conditions, including the ability to work from home if possible.
Beyond the specifics of our claim, we hope that by giving reproductive health its own status in our enterprise agreements we are paving the way for a more open and supportive culture around these issues in all workplaces. For much too long reproductive health matters have been a taboo topic in the workplace with many too afraid to ask for what they need for fear of negative ramifications.
Over the past decade or so there has been a focus on so-called ‘Work Life Balance’, which is essentially the idea that workplaces need to make it easier for workers to juggle the competing demands of work and family. Reproductive Health and Wellbeing leave will enable workers to be supported in this part of their lives. Alongside parental leave, flexible working arrangements and access to childcare, paid leave for reproductive health is an important part of the puzzle.
HACSU is proud to be the first union in Australia to put this claim forward, but we don’t want to see this end with us. It is our vision to see Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave be simply expected by all workers in all workplaces in the same way we just expect to receive paid annual leave or superannuation. We issue a challenge to all workers, unions, and employers to get behind it and make Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave a reality for everyone.