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Pregnancy discrimination widespread

Briefs

Cite as: September 2014 88 (09) LIJ, p.16

Funding of $150,000 has been provided by the federal government to develop resources for employers on how best manage and support working parents through pregnancy, parental leave and return to work.

The funding comes after a new report, Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review, released by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) showed working while pregnant is commonly seen as a privilege, not a right, in Australian workplaces.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Eliza- beth Broderick said there was indisputable evidence to show that pregnancy and return to work discrimination was widespread. Further, it had a cost, not just to women, working parents and their families, but also to workplaces and the national economy.

Addressing the findings of the report was a “human rights imperative”, Ms Broderick said.

The national review found that one in two (49 per cent) mothers and 27 per cent of fathers and partners surveyed had experienced discrimination in the workplace during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work.

Review respondents spoke of the “devastating” impacts such discrimination could have on their health, economic security and family. One woman described her pregnancy, parental leave and return to work as “the worst experience of my life”.

Employers also find managing these issues difficult. One employer said they tried to be excited for the person but “secretly what you’re thinking is how am I going to replace this person for the next year . . . how am I going to run this company and meet my objectives in the next year or two?”

The recommendations in the report are directed towards government, workplaces and the community, with the aim to increase women’s participation in supportive workplaces.

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