Expecting more: rethinking the rights and protections available to pregnant workers under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

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This article integrates doctrinal and empirical legal research methods to evaluate manifestations of discrimination experienced by pregnant workers and develops proposals to strengthen labour law to better support working women. The article commences by mapping the framework of rights and protections currently applicable to pregnant women under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (‘FW Act’). It then analyses court decisions made under parts 3-1 and 3-2 of the FW Act that are relevant to pregnancy, which builds on the limited scholarship in this area. This is augmented by analysing the findings from a pilot study into the experiences of a group of pregnant workers in Victoria, which addresses an ongoing deficiency in the literature of the qualitative examination of workplace pregnancy discrimination. Scrutiny of the doctrinal and empirical data reveals the common manifestations and patterns of conduct that pregnant women experience at work. The article then considers how the rights and protections in the FW Act could be strengthened to better support pregnant women who experience unlawful conduct at work. It is argued that there are three critical gaps in the FW Act, which are leaving pregnant women vulnerable to detrimental treatment. Legislative reform proposals are formulated to address these gaps, of which the most pressing is to add pregnancy to s 65(1A) of the FW Act so that it comprises a ground on which employees can make requests for flexible working arrangements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-526
Number of pages23
JournalFederal Law Review
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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