The Australian government has announced that all pregnant women employees will be eligible for 18-week paid leave - even if they leave the job before giving birth. The scheme is due to start on January 1 next year.
The Government yesterday released the draft legislation of Australia's first-ever paid parental leave scheme, which ensures that nearly every mother receives financial support in the months after the birth of their baby.
Women who have qualified for the government-funded scheme but who resign no more than three months before having their baby will still be paid the minimum wage, currently $543.78 per week, for the full 18 weeks.
And women whose employer already has a paid maternity leave scheme will be able to double dip, receiving the Government money either before, after, or at the same time as employer-paid leave.
Casual, seasonal and contract workers can qualify even if they have a break of up to eight weeks.
They will still need to have worked 330 hours or one day a week for at least 10 of the 13 months before giving birth or adopting their child.
The Government says it has designed the scheme to complement existing employer-funded paid parental leave.
It expects 148,000 families a year will qualify for the scheme - just over half of all those who have children.
"This is a very, very special day, especially for all of those people who have worked for so long to deliver Australia's first paid parental leave scheme," Minister for Families Jenny Macklin said.
With the release of the draft legislation, the Senate can begin its inquiry, report in a month and consider the final bill and vote before Parliament rises for the winter break towards the end of June.
ACTU president Sharan Burrow and Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick joined Ms Macklin at the launch.
"This is a magical moment. To see a piece of legislation with paid parental leave on the front of the cover is a 30-year, long-awaited moment of justice for working women," Ms Burrow said.
She also had stern words for the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. "We know that if you oppose this, Tony Abbott you'll face the anger of pregnant women, their mothers, their sisters, their aunties, their friends, right across Australia. That would just be the cruellest thing," she said.
"It's a great thrill to be here today as the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and to see a piece of legislation which has the words 'paid parental leave' on the top," said Ms. Broderick.