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ACTU seeking reproductive health rights in Fair Work Act

The ACTU is calling for flexible work arrangement requests to extend to reproductive health issues, ahead of consideration of the issue at next week's triennial Congress in Adelaide.

ACTU seeking reproductive health rights in Fair Work Act
ACTU seeking reproductive health rights in Fair Work Act

In its submission this month to the Senate inquiry into issues related to menopause and perimenopause, the ACTU is seeking the extension of the s65 right to request flexible work to include workers who are experiencing reproductive "symptoms or concerns".

It says a FSU survey identified the crucial role of workplace supports, with access to flexible work and WFH the most important (see Related Article).

The ACTU also wants reproductive health designated as a protected attribute in anti-discrimination laws, including the anti-bias provisions in the Fair Work Act.

It says many workers "are reluctant to speak about their experience experience of menstruation, menopause and perimenopause in the workplace".

It says this is "due to stigma, embarrassment, the taboo nature of these issues, the lack of support, understanding and respect from employers, and fear of the consequences of doing so (for example being perceived negatively, having their abilities or commitment to work questioned, fear of encouraging further sexism or ageism in the workplace, or being otherwise discriminated against)".

The ACTU says the survey results also highlighted the challenges workers face in accessing "reasonable adjustments" at work.

Adding reproductive health as a "standalone protected attribute" would also help to achieve the "cultural shift" required to ensure workers get the support and workplace accommodations they require.

The submission says that menopause and perimenopause "have historically been regarded as issues that solely affect women" but it "recognises and affirms that these physiological transitions are also experienced by gender diverse workers, including trans men, non-binary and intersex workers".

The ACTU also recommends the development of a reproductive health regulation and code of practice under model WHS laws.

The submission says "numerous" affiliates have pursued menstrual, menopause and reproductive leave or entitlement claims in bargaining.

Leave entitlements have ranged from five to 12 days.

The FSU has won 12 days paid menopause and menstrual leave in the agreement for the CBUS super fund and 12 days paid menopause leave in the Police Bank deal.

The submission also notes that CPSU Victoria won five days of reproductive health leave in the Victorian Public Sector Agreement (see Related Article).

The ACTU submission comes ahead of its triennial Congress, at which the Queensland Council of Unions is planning to bring on debate about reproductive health rights (see Related Article), in the wake of its "It's for Every Body" campaign.

The QCU in its March submission to the inquiry called for a similar flexible work request provision to that sought by the ACTU, along with 10 days non-cumulative reproductive health leave in the NES and Queensland Employment Standards (it recently won a 10-day entitlement in the State public sector - see Related Article).

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