Unions NSW believes it has the answer to the question of why female jockeys like Michelle Payne are the exception and not the rule: shoddy parental leave entitlements. 

Unions NSW Assistant Secretary Emma Maiden pointed out that 96 per cent of female jockeys were under the age of 40, but were being squeezed by inflexible paid parental leave work requirements when combined with Occupational and Health Safety (OHS) rules. 

“The Federal Government’s PPL work test requires an employee to have worked at least 10 out of the 13 months prior to their birth of their child.

“Meanwhile OHS requirements restrict female jockeys from riding after their first trimester.

“As being a jockey is an extremely specialised profession, industry assistance is limited in its ability to find alternative work for pregnant jockeys and many are left either delaying having children, forgoing PPL, or simply leaving the industry.

“The Government can easily fix this issue by relaxing the work requirements for jockeys.”

Ms Maiden pointed out that Ms Payne was right to observe that racing remained a “chauvinistic” industry.

“Female jockeys are only a fairly recent introduction to the world of racing,” Ms Maiden said

“Female riders make up about 21% of jockeys which has grown significantly over the last 10-15 years from almost zero.

“The distinct lack of female jockeys both in the industry and in the Melbourne cup reflects the institutional failures of the racing industry to address the broader obstacles that continue to prevent women’s broader participation in the sport.”

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