We welcome findings of report into pregnancy discrimination

We welcome findings of report into pregnancy discrimination

Friday, 25 July 2014

Victoria Legal Aid has welcomed recommendations to improve legal protections for pregnant women at work and help them take up their legal rights. The final report by the Australian Human Rights Commission was released today and shows that pregnancy discrimination is widespread.

With one in two mothers in the Commission’s survey reporting that they have experienced workplace discrimination, Victoria Legal Aid Equality Law Program Manager Melanie Schleiger said, ‘It is disheartening to see that for many women the hardest parts of pregnancy and motherhood is keeping their job.

‘You shouldn’t have to choose between motherhood and a career,’ Ms Schleiger said.

‘Yet women have told us that their employers make the choice for them by firing them, freezing them out of the workplace, or refusing their request to return to work part time’. This leads to anxiety and depression, as well as financial insecurity and reduced career opportunities.

The Commission’s research shows that only 9% of women who experience discrimination make a formal complaint.

‘Lodging a legal complaint is the last thing that most expecting mums or new mums want to do, but this means that employers get away scot-free’, Ms Schleiger said.

‘Based on our knowledge of the sorts of barriers women are encountering, Victoria Legal Aid has now made a video encouraging women to speak up, understand their rights and not 'stay mum'’.

‘Many women are not seeking advice because they may be daunted by the thought that they will have to go to court and be prepared for expensive and exhausting litigation. Our video helps them to realise they have rights, and they don’t necessarily have to go to court to get a better outcome. We encourage them to call us for free advice if they’re having any problems at work in relation to pregnancy discrimination.’ 

The Commission’s report highlighted the clear gap between the law and what actually happens in practice. This may be partly due to the minimal repercussions for employers who flout the law, but in addition, ‘both employers and employees are confused about what the law says,’ Ms Schleiger said.

‘So we are pleased to see that the Commission has recommended that the government communicate clear and consistent information about the rights and obligations of workers and their employers.’

‘We also strongly support the Commission’s proposals to reform the laws that prohibit pregnancy and parental discrimination. In our submission to their review, we pointed out that strengthening legal protections could prevent instances of discrimination in the first place.’

More information

We have a video and information about pregnancy and parental discrimination at work to encourage women to speak up, understand their rights and not ‘stay mum’.

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For media enquiries please contact Kerrie Soraghan on 0422 966 513 or (03) 9269 0660.

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