The ACTU have today set up a confidential hotline to assist women who experience discrimination in the workplace including being fired, demoted, forced into insecure jobs and having their role changed without consultation.
ACTU president Ged Kearney said employers were flouting laws that made discrimination illegal and causing tens of thousands of women – if not more – significant hardship through the loss of incomes and the undervaluing of their work.
"I'm still gobsmacked by the number of employers who are willing to break the law and act against the rights of their female employees. Australia has a significant way to go before we can say there's equality between men and women," Ms Kearney said.
"Many women feel alone and unsure about how to respond when the culture in their workplace is one that tolerates discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy. We know this culture is so strong that many women quit just to avoid the expected outcome."
"This hotline will give women advice about their rights and the steps they can take to protect themselves, report the discrimination and try to get a fair go. Bias of any kind is abhorrent but when it's against 50 per cent of the population and for something like child birth then we need to send a strong message."
"We are disappointed but not surprised by the evidence presented to the Federal Government's review of the paid parental leave scheme that shows women workers are being sacked to avoid eligibility for paid leave.
Unions also know that workplaces are making it harder for workers with caring responsibilities when they refuse requests for more balanced work arrangements."
This comes as statistics show about 67,000 women had experienced some form of discrimination stemming from their pregnancy.
Ms Kearney said women who face unfair and discriminatory treatment in the workforce because of their pregnancy should quickly follow these four steps:
- Talk to your co-workers. You're probably not alone;
- Call your union if you are a member;
- Keep a diary on every conversation;
- Correspond with your employer in writing;
- Call the Pregnancy Discrimination Hotline on 1300 364 024 to find out your rights because discrimination is illegal.
- One-in-three women in Australia with a child under two say they left the workforce permanently while pregnant or after having a child.
- One-in-10 received inappropriate or negative (discriminatory) comments from their manager or supervisor.
- One-in-15 missed out on an opportunity for promotion, training or development opportunities.
Pregnancy Discrimination Hotline: 1300 364 024
Media Contact: Eleni Hale 0418 793 885 and Ben Ruse 0409 510 879