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Pregnancy Discrimination at Work


What is pregnancy discrimination and how do you know if you are being discriminated against?

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, almost 49% of pregnant women have been exposed to pregnancy discrimination throughout their employment. While this presents an alarming percentage, it is important to identify what constitutes this type of discrimination.

There are various pieces of legislation in Australia which are designed at preventing unlawful discrimination. The laws clearly stipulate that an employee cannot be treated unfavourably because of pregnancy, or expected pregnancy. If this occurs, it is unlawful discrimination.

However, it is important to note that pregnancy discrimination may also be subtle and not easily identifiable. For example, an organisation may be conducting a restructure, which appears legitimate on the surface, however only the pregnant employee is made redundant. If the employee has been made redundant due to her pregnancy, then this would be discrimination.

Discrimination may also occur if a female who goes for a job interview, does quite well and then gets the job, and the offer that was made is withdrawn’ after the employer is notified of the pregnancy.

If you qualify for unpaid parental leave and have worked for your employer for 12 months or more you are protected by the “Return to Work Guarantee”. This means that you are entitled to return to the position held pre-parental leave or a position of equal pay level or status.

What to do if you suspect you are being discriminated against?

The first step is to identify that you are actually being discriminated against, and as mentioned earlier it is not always obvious, therefore it is important to identify the subtle, indirect forms of discrimination as well.

Secondly, it is crucial to leave a paper trail if you believe you are subject to pregnancy discrimination. Be specific with this, including dates and times of incidents with follow up emails.

Thirdly, it may be useful to lodge a complaint internally with a senior employee from Human Resources and express your concerns regarding the pregnancy discrimination incidents. This will not always lead to an ideal resolution, in which case there are various commissions which have considerable investigative powers - such as the Human Rights Commission and the Fair Work Commission.

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Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: October 16, 2019.

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