$20,000 maternity leave win

Temporary nurse entitled to full benefit

A senior nurse manager on a temporary contract has won more than $20,000 in maternity leave payments extending beyond the end of her contract.

The North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) had no right to restrict maternity leave to the period of the contract, a NSW Industrial Relations Commissioner ruled.

The NSW Nurses’ Association took up the case of Lismore Base Hospital senior nurse manager Lyndal Van Eede after she was denied her entitlement to 14 weeks’ paid maternity leave under the Public Health System Nurses’ and Midwives’ (State) Award.

Lyndal went on maternity leave on 21 January 2008 but, since her contract finished on February 10, the NCAHS decided to pay only three weeks of her entitlement.

Commissioner David Ritchie said that when Lyndal started maternity leave she was an ‘eligible employee’, having been employed for more than the 40 weeks stipulated by the award. She was therefore entitled to the full benefits of the maternity leave clause and should be paid the 11 weeks outstanding.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said Lyndal’s win set a valuable precedent for public health system nurses throughout NSW.

‘The Commissioner found the paid maternity leave clause in the award does not depend on continuation of employment,’ Judith said.

Lyndal received a lump sum payment of $20,000 plus interest.

She was heavily pregnant when Commission hearings started and baby Joel was two months old when the case was settled.

‘I attended three Commission hearings in six months and at times I did wonder whether it was worth it. However, I believed that in principle I was right,’ Lyndal said.

‘The union’s industrial officer Chris Blair and barrister Claire Howell believed it was worth pursuing and were very enthusiastic and supportive – they gave me the motivation to keep fighting.

‘I said to my partner, even if we aren’t successful, I’m happy that we challenged the system.  The Union gave me confidence as they believed I had a reasonable case.

‘The outcome made it all worthwhile.’

Lyndal said she received conflicting advice from NCAHS human resources staff about whether she would be entitled to the full 14 weeks’ maternity leave.

Lyndal said she was very happy with the decision and pleased that other nurses would not have to fight the same battle in the future.

‘This is the first time I have sought advice from the Union on any issue during my career. However, I read the award and felt on principle that I had a case,’ she said.