Supporting working parents: findings from the AHRC’s national inquiry into the prevalence of pregnancy and return to work discrimination in the workplace

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Abstract

In July 2014 the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released the
findings of its national review into pregnancy and return to work
discrimination in the workplace which it conducted following a request from
the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. The review comes 15
years after the commission’s first inquiry into pregnancy discrimination in the
workplace.
Federal law has prohibited pregnancy discrimination in the workplace since
the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (SDA) came into force. It is now
unlawful in every state and territory. Discrimination on the basis of
breastfeeding and family or carer’s responsibilities is also prohibited. Since
2009 the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) has prohibited workplace
discrimination based on pregnancy and family or carer’s responsibilities and
the Act gives employees additional entitlements relating to their parental and
caring responsibilities. Male and female employees who are the primary
caregiver for a child are entitled to 12 months unpaid parental leave upon the
birth or adoption of the child and can request an additional 12 months leave.
Upon returning to work, they can request flexible working conditions and
they are protected from adverse action, such as dismissal, for exercising these rights. Yet despite these legal protections, the findings of the national review
show that employees continue to experience discrimination during pregnancy,
when taking parental leave and upon re-entering the workforce. This note
presents the main findings from the surveys and consultations that were held
with employers and employees as part of the review and the review’s
recommendations for addressing the prevalence of what it terms
‘pregnancy/return to work discrimination’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-292
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Journal of Labour Law
Volume27
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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