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We need to talk about pregnancy discrimination

03 October 2012 By ASU

The union movement has been at the forefront of many successful campaigns addressing the rights of women in the workplace. Paid and unpaid maternity leave are key conditions in your agreements. More recently, the union movement participated around the country to achieve paid parental leave for all Australians.

In light of some recent decisions, it concerns us to learn of a worrying trend affecting a women everywhere. During 2012, the Fair Work Ombudsman alone has run four matters relating to pregnancy discrimination. Not all employers understand that pregnancy provides no grounds to affect the employment status of women - in fact that's discrimination! Winning paid parental leave for all Australians does not mean that all other workplace entitlements can be denied to you.

The Fair Work Act supports numerous commonwealth and state legislation on anti-discrimination. Under section 351(1) of the Fair Work Act, an employer must not take adverse action against a person who is an employee, or prospective employee, of the employer because of the person's race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer's responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin. Adverse action is defined in section 342 of the Fair Work Act. Workplace laws also make it unlawful to take action against any employee to prevent them from accessing a workplace right, such as an entitlement to parental leave.

Employers can face penalties when they breach these sections of the Act - maximums are $6,600 and $33,000 respectively. Courts may also award costs for compensation of economic and non-economic loss.

So what influences your choices when you choose to start a family? When you experience doubts about your workplace right to paid parental leave, always contact your Union official for advice!

Contact Details
Name: Joanne Knight - Convenor of the ASU National Women's Consultative Committee