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Catholic schools support paid maternity leave but don't have the cash

The Catholic Education Office believes in paid maternity leave but is concerned about who would pay the almost $1 million necessary each year to bring Catholic schools into line with international standards.

The Catholic Weekly reports that Br Kelvin Canavan, executive director of schools in the Sydney archdiocese, has expressed his concerns in a newsletter to teachers.

There is no universal right to paid maternity leave in Australia. Catholic diocesan schools offer their female employees nine weeks paid leave, five weeks less than the 14-week ACTU/International Labor Organisation standard. At the current take-up rate, maternity leave provisions cost the Catholic Education Office around $1.54 million per year. That would increase to $2.39 million - an extra $0.85 million - under a 14-week system. To bring the office in line with the Australian Catholic University, which recently introduced landmark maternity leave provisions of 12 weeks' leave at full pay, plus 40 weeks at 60 per cent of salary, would cost an additional $4.6 million per year.

Br Canavan said the Catholic Education Office, which derives 80% of its funding from federal and state governments, supports extended paid maternity leave but warned that educational programs or staff numbers could be affected if the costs were borne solely by the Catholic school system.

"If you were going to increase expenditure on maternity leave and if your income remains the same, where would you take the expenditure from?" he said. "If maternity leave is increased for teachers - and I'm supportive of that - but there's no funding for it, something would have to give."

Catholic Weekly

30 May 2002