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Uni staff get year's paid maternity leave

Women staff at the Australian Catholic University have won the right to a year's paid maternity leave in an unprecedented agreement hailed by unions as a pace-setter for all workers.

The ACU confirmed that the entitlement, contained in an enterprise pay deal for 450 non-academic employees, would be available soon to all women staff.

Under the deal, women with two years' service will receive their full salary for 12 weeks and then 60 per cent for the remaining 40 weeks of the year. This far outstrips the legal minimum requirement of a year's unpaid parental leave for the primary carer.

The most generous rights have previously been in the public service, which gives 12 weeks' paid leave. Some banks and other private employers allow six weeks.

The agreement also gives working fathers who are not primary carers three weeks on full pay after the birth of each child. The legal minimum is two days.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow on Tuesday night hailed the deal as magnificent because it recognised the responsibility of parents rearing children in the balance between work and family life.

The deal applies to the university's campuses at East Melbourne and Ballarat as well as in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra.

The university's vice-chancellor, Professor Peter Sheehan, said that the agreement was designed to be family friendly.

The executive director of university services at ACU, Mr John Cameron, confirmed that the decision was a deliberate initiatitive by the university and was not part of a union claim.