What does a meaningful maternity leave look like?

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What could a meaningful maternity leave look like in the business of law?

Maureen Peatman, Hunt & Hunt senior consultant, says that primary carers could be given 12 months, including an allowance from the federal government, which is paid by the firm on return to work. A further 12 months is possible if allowed by the business, but it would be unusual for a senior lawyer to be able to take two years off, she says.

For secondary carers, they could be given a week paid leave after birth. If eligible, a government allowance could be given, which the firm can pay initially to eventually be reimbursed by the government.

“Some industries are now giving the secondary carer three months off after the primary carer has taken 12 months' maternity leave,” she says.

However, a meaningful maternity leave goes beyond giving ample time for new parents, the senior lawyer says. A meaningful maternity leave should allow lawyers to leave for up to a year “knowing your job is waiting for you, and you return to work at the same level as if you had not had time off,” she says.

On the topic of parental support, Peatman says that she would like to see easier access to childcare within buildings where people work. “There are still high-rise buildings in the CBD which do not provide any childcare facilities,” she says.

Peatman, who has been the chair of the Legal Practice Section of the Law Council of Australia, will be among experts at the upcoming Women in Law Summit to tackle topics covering a wide range of issues faced by the legal profession. The packed event will be held at The Westin Sydney on 7 August.

“The Women in Law Summit raises the issues, and gives people within the profession the opportunity for their voice to be heard,” she says.

Maureen Peatman