Workplace discrimination against staff who fall pregnant is still far too common according to employee advocacy firm Discrimination Claims.
Women who claim to have been unfairly treated by their employers because of pregnancy make up a large percentage of calls from workers, according to Director of Litigation, Miles Heffernan.
“We get thousands of enquiries every year where a young mother is made redundant while on maternity leave, or not been allowed to return to work on a part time basis while she takes care of the new bub,” he said.
Currently at a federal level, the Fair Work Act and the Sex Discrimination Act outlaw pregnancy related discrimination.
This is where a worker is treated unfavourably because of pregnancy.
Examples can include:
- Firing or refusing to hire women based on their pregnancy
- Failing to allow parental leave
- Refusing to promote an employee who is pregnant
- Refusing to create a flexible working arrangement on return to work, such as refusal of part-time work
- Changing a worker’s role to their disadvantage while they are on maternity leave
- Sacking a worker who falls pregnant during probationary periods
Essentially the law forbids discrimination if the employer’s motives for their actions were in part because the worker was pregnant.
Despite the laws, research shows pregnant women are still being discriminated against.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 54% of women in one study believed that their careers have been affected by taking maternity leave. A further 44.1% say their salaries stall, 30.4% believe their careers take a backward step and 29.9% say they sacrificed their careers when they gave birth.
Research by Marian Baird and Rae Cooper found that of those women who went back to work after childbirth – only 33% returned to the same job pay and conditions.
Those statistics aren’t surprising, says Mr Heffernan from Discrimination Claims.
In one case, he represented a woman returning to the workforce who was told by her boss that she had to work on Fridays, even though her new family commitments didn’t allow her to.
The employer was forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars compensation to the woman, because it was found he could easily have swapped the Friday shift with another worker who didn’t have family responsibilities.
“As employers and members of the community, we owe young mums a chance at workforce participation, to earn a wage, and importantly superannuation and other benefits,” Mr Heffernan said.
If you believe you have been discriminated at work because of pregnancy, there is help. Contact Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for a confidential chat about your options.