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Pregnancy discrimination inquiry called after evidence of widespread abuse

28 June 2013 By ASU

babyThe ASU urges employers to co-operate with the upcoming national inquiry into pregnancy discrimination, commissioned by the Australian Government. Driving the inquiry are alarming figures indicating that too many working women are leaving work permanently because they are offered full-time work or nothing after having a child. The results of our own recent survey into parental leave and partner pay indicate that there are entrenched problems around pregnancy and post-natal leave that need to be dealt with.

In their analysis of the latest ABS data, the Working Life team show that workplaces need to catch-up to the needs of ordinary Australian families.

While the fictional image of an ideal worker available 24/7 with no visible caring responsibilities persists in society, pregnancy discrimination will occur. ASU members need to know from their employers that family and life circumstances will not unfairly disadvantage earning a decent income and having a secure job.

Our recent national survey of ASU members for the Paid Parental Leave Review 2013 confirms that returning to work part-time without trading off conditions resonates deeply with ASU members. Australian families want "Time to Care".

Although many ASU members enjoy enforceable rights to request flexible work from their employers, the Union continues to use collective bargaining to improve 'right to request' mechanisms in our agreements. However, what often happens on the ground despite these rights, requires union action.

The ASU is pleased that the Australian Human Rights Commission will undertake further research into the problem for the Federal Government. Please see their media release below.

Commission to undertake pregnancy and return to work research

Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
22 June 2013

You can also read this on the AHRC website here

The Australian Human Rights Commission has been asked by the Australian Government to undertake a research into the prevalence and nature of discrimination as it relates to women who are pregnant at work and people returning to work after parental leave.

"This is a critical area of work and the Commission welcomes the opportunity to conduct this research," said Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick. "The number of complaints received by the Commission and Fair Work Australia in these areas indicates that discrimination in relation to pregnancy and return to work after parental leave is a continuing problem in Australia."

Commissioner Broderick said that such discrimination places significant barriers to advancing women's participation in the workplace and women's contribution to productivity in workplaces.

"Unfortunately there is no comprehensive data currently collected on the magnitude of the problem," Ms Broderick said. "We need to undertake rigorous research that will identify the prevalence and nature of pregnancy-related discrimination, to analyse the adequacy of the current regulatory and policy framework and to identity best practice."

As part of this research, the Commission will conduct a national online prevalence survey to assess the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination relating to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave.

When considering the prevalence data and its implications, the Commission will convene a series of roundtables and consultations across the country in both cities and regional areas. Parties to be included will come from government, industry and employer groups, unions, workers, women's groups, relevant community and health organisations, and affected women not otherwise represented.

At the conclusion of this research and consultation process, the Commission will prepare a report, including recommendations, that will address: the prevalence of discrimination; adequacy of existing laws; policies, procedures and practices - and best practice approaches; and proposed areas of focus for future activities intended to address any major matters of concern that have arisen during the process.

The Commission will report on the research in May 2014.

For more information, visit the AHRC webpage "Prevalence of experiences of discrimination relating to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave".

Media contact: Brinsley Marlay 02 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529

Contact Details
Name: Joanne Knight
Telephone: (02) 9283 9282