Balancing work and fertility isn’t easy, but fertility leave can help

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Balancing the competing demands of work and care, or production and reproduction, is a burden traditionally borne by women. As many women can tell you, it often comes at a personal cost. It is not uncommon for women involved in a research study to report that they give up promotions, or work part-time, to accommodate their childcare or elder care responsibilities, and earn less, because full-time jobs are too much. are inflexible.

But beyond the individual cost, there are impacts on the economy, workplaces and gender equality, a report Conversation where did it go. In Australia, this is reflected in declining fertility rates and the withdrawal of women from the labor market in the wake of COVID-19.

Future fertility rates are predicted to fall to a record low of about 1.6 children per woman, one of the lowest rates on record. This is below replacement level, putting additional strain on an already stressed workforce. After decades of growth, women’s participation in employment is also declining, possibly driven by the ongoing stress of the lockdown and a reassessment of work and care responsibilities.

These trends paint a grim picture of production and breeding conditions in Australia. But we can change policy to better help young people navigate work and care. One of these is fertility leave. What is fertility leave? In Australia, as well as in countries such as the United Kingdom, India and New Zealand, reproductive leisure has emerged as an innovative response to the tension between work and human reproduction. These policies are intended to help workers balance their paid work obligations with their reproductive needs, sexual health and overall well-being.

These policies can provide support to workers who are trying to start a family, or to someone who is managing some of the more complex needs of the human body that require attention and maintenance at various levels over the course of life. is needed. For example, there is evidence that Australian women struggle to balance the demands of IVF treatment with paid work obligations. Data to suggest painful periods may also contribute to absenteeism. Unions, private companies lead the way, we are starting to see a wide range of workplace policies in this area.

In 2020, the Health and Community Services Union in Victoria began making a push for reproductive health and wellness leave as part of its enterprise bargaining process. The claim covers paid leave and flexible working arrangements for menstruation, menopause, abortion and stillbirth, fertility treatment, vasectomy, hysterectomy and gender confirmation treatment (negotiations are ongoing). Earlier this year, ethical retirement company Future Super announced paid leave for menstruation and menopause, as did Australian-owned period underwear brand Modibody.

Global music streaming platform Spotify recently made headlines for its generous family formation benefits, which offer employees a lifetime allowance for IVF treatments, donor services, and fertility evaluations. Part of a global movement Fertility leave is not a new concept. In Australia, these policies date back to the early 2000s, when the Student Representative Council at the University of Sydney and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union were involved in two separate industrial disputes over the provision of menstrual leave.

But there is a new energy around fertility leisure, reflecting a growing acceptance of the complex entanglements of work and personal life. There is a campaign to bring the body into the modern workplace and focus on biological and social reproduction as a means of aiding economic production. Simply put, if we fail to accommodate the reproductive needs and activities of today’s workers and taxpayers, we will not have a future generation of workers and taxpayers.

These policies are also part of a global movement to normalize and accommodate the body at all stages of life and for people of all genders and genders, including cisgender, transgender, gender diverse and non-binary people. Some people object but how well will these policies be accepted? In some cases, fertility leave has caused surprise or alarm. Given the link between fertility and gender discrimination at work, some feminists are wary of policies that draw attention to biological differences among workers.

There are also privacy concerns over the disclosure of highly personal issues such as infertility or menstrual pain, as well as concerns that these policies may increase the cost of labor or reinforce negative stereotypes (we need to know about that time of month). No need for more jokes about). Acknowledging the potential drawbacks of fertility leave should be part of the policy conversation. These policies should be carefully followed and designed in a way that minimizes the risk of gender stereotypes.

The future of fertility leave in Australia Despite significant developments within trade unions and private companies, there are limited provisions for fertility leave in national law. 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 suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth are now eligible for paid bereavement leave, but they need to go further.

For example, we can locate a model clause for reproductive leave in modern awards or a legislative amendment to national employment standards to include a gender-inclusive reproductive leave provision. This provision would provide days of secure leave from unpaid or paid jobs in a manner similar to parental leave originating and recent domestic and family violence leave. We must take advantage of the opportunity of COVID-19 to reconfigure our gender contract. It is clear that without policies that enable people to work, care for and reproduce, Australia would be a poor and small nation. (conversation) AMS AMS 11250938 NNNN.

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