Reproductive leave

Reproductive leave is unlike other forms of leave such as parental leave, annual leave or Family and Domestic Violence leave because it is not enshrined in the National Employment Standards

In other words, you are not automatically entitled to reproductive leave. In fact, reproductive leave is only available at a handful of workplaces in Australia – but union members are working to expand this reach so as many workers as possible have access to the leave.  

If reproductive leave is something you want to see happen at your workplace, chat to your workmates and contact your union. Through your union, you can bargain for reproductive to be included in your enterprise agreement

When workers should be able to use reproductive leave

Reproductive leave can take a variety of forms depending on the workplace. But reproductive leave should be provided as paid leave and can cover treatment or management of conditions related to the following: 

  • Menstruation 
  • Perimenopause 
  • Menopause 
  • Poly-cystic ovarian syndrome 
  • Endometriosis 
  • In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) 
  • Other forms of assisted reproductive health services such as vasectomy, hysterectomy, and terminations.

The purpose of reproductive leave

When you’re a working woman with caring responsibilities, you never really clock off from work. Even when you work full time, you still do 40 per cent more unpaid work than men. 

Caring responsibilities are the main reason why working women tend to take more leave than men. But the expectation of unpaid labour from women takes its toll – when it comes to looking after yourself, you’ve already used up your personal leave to look after others.  

On top of that, women also have to navigate taboos around menstruation, menopause, IVF and pregnancy loss. Combine that stigma with depleted personal leave and you have little choice but to endure pain and discomfort.  

But it’s important to note reproductive leave doesn’t just affect women – the leave is all-gender inclusive for two reasons: 

  1. It’s not only women who experience reproductive related issues like menstruation, menopause or pregnancy loss. Trans men and other gender diverse workers can as well.  
  1. The leave encompasses vasectomies which will be relevant to men, trans women and other gender diverse workers. Reproductive leave covers all reproductive systems. 
  1. In cases of pregnancy loss, grief is not contained to just the birthing parent. Non-birthing parents who have suffered the loss should also have access to leave.

Examples of similar types of leave included in enterprise agreements

While neither of these examples follow the ideal form of reproductive leave outlined above, they are important first steps in respecting the reproductive needs of employees.

Menstruation leave

For their employees who experience discomfort during menstruation, The Victorian Women’s Trust provide:

  1. The option to work from home 
  1. Access to 12 days paid menstrual leave per year 
  1. A more comfortable space to use e.g. a quiet rest area

Compassionate leave for pregnancy loss

In 2022, the Health & Community Services Union (HACSU) successfully bargained for broader compassionate leave to be included in the Victorian Public Mental Health Services enterprise agreement.  

The new entitlement means that employees who have a pregnancy termination prior to twenty weeks can take compassionate leave. 

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