Commentary: Should women trying to get pregnant be on leave?



But to what extent will these policies be accepted?

In some cases, reproductive leave has caused surprise or alarm. Given the link between reproductive capacity and gender discrimination in the workplace, some feminists are understandably wary of policies that draw attention to biological differences among workers.

There are also privacy concerns regarding the disclosure of highly personal issues such as infertility or period pain, as well as concerns that these policies might increase the cost of labor or reinforce negative stereotypes (we don’t need to no more jokes about “this time of the month”).

Recognizing the potential drawbacks of reproductive leave needs to be part of the political conversation. These policies should be approached with caution and designed in such a way as to minimize the risk of gender stereotypes.


Despite important developments in trade unions and private companies, provisions for reproductive leave are limited in national legislation. For many workers, their only option is to request personal leave: that is, “sick” leave.

Recent announcements from the Federal and NSW governments that parents who have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth are now eligible for paid bereavement leave are a start – but they need to go further.

For example, we could explore a “model clause” for reproductive leave in modern prices or a legislative amendment to national employment standards to include a provision on gender-neutral reproductive leave.

This provision would presumably provide unpaid or paid days of job-protected leave, similar to the origins of parental leave and, more recently, domestic and family violence leave.

We must take advantage of COVID-19 to reconfigure our gender contract. It is clear that without policies that allow people to work, care and reproduce, Australia will be a poorer and smaller nation.

Barian Baird, Elizabeth Hill and Sydney Colussi are professors and researchers at the University of Sydney. This comment first appearance on La Conversation.


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