Pregnancy discrimination is when your employer treats you badly because of your pregnancy.
Parental discrimination is when your employer:
- treats you badly because you need to look after your children
- unreasonably insists on work conditions that you cannot do because of your children, such as working full-time hours.
If you experience pregnancy or parental discrimination, State and Commonwealth laws may be able to help you.
When pregnancy and parental discrimination is against the law
A found that one in two women experience workplace discrimination, either during their pregnancy, their maternity leave or on return to work. Most women who experience discrimination don’t make a complaint. They may be embarrassed or concerned about their professional reputation.
Common examples of pregnancy and parental discrimination at work
Examples of pregnancy and parental discrimination include being:
- refused work because of your pregnancy
- fired after telling your boss that you are pregnant
- fired or made redundant while on parental leave
- told that you can’t return to your old job after parental leave
- told that you can’t work part-time or on reduced hours to look after your children.
I worked for my employer for years until I became pregnant. When I started suffering from morning sickness and my employer started discriminating against me I decided to take action.
It was a big decision to make a legal complaint while being pregnant. It’s been hard and tiring, but I got through it with support from my lawyer and I think it’s made me stronger.
My advice to other women is to stand up for themselves. You should get advice straight away. Don’t let things go just because it is hard at the start. It's worth it at the end.
Know your rights
It’s a good idea to find out about your rights so you are prepared when you talk to your employer about your pregnancy, maternity leave, return to work or request for flexible work arrangements.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission outlines your rights under Victorian law about:
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s website outlines your rights to:
What you can do if you have experienced discrimination
If you have experienced pregnancy and parental discrimination at work, you may be able to resolve the issue by negotiating directly with your employer after you’ve learnt more about your rights. This may result in a positive outcome as employers do not always realise or understand their actions are against the law.
But if you're like Stephanie and your issue can’t be resolved, you can make a complaint.
However, discrimination law is complex and it can be confusing knowing which option is the best one for you. If you complain to one place, sometimes you cannot change your mind later and complain elsewhere. It is best to speak to a lawyer and get help before lodging a complaint.
Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.
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Reviewed 19 May 2022