Despite various anti-discrimination and employment laws (which exist on state and federal levels) that make it unlawful for employers to take adverse action against employees on the basis of pregnancy, protecting employees from such discrimination in Australia remains a serious challenge.
There are many instances whereby employers have terminated the employment of an employee, or pressured them to resign, after they become pregnant or attempt to return to work following the taking of their parental leave. While some successful cases result in heavy fines being imposed against employers, in other cases it is difficult for employees to prove that their pregnancy was the reason for the employer’s actions, especially where the employer claims that redundancy was the reason for termination.
What are the key statistics?
In 2013, the Federal Attorney-General’s Department requested the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to undertake a national review into discrimination related to pregnancy, parental leave and returning to work after parental leave. The report found that a staggering 49 per cent of pregnant women and working mothers experienced discrimination in their employment, while 27 per cent of fathers and partners who had taken a month or less of parental leave had experienced discrimination upon their return to work.
What laws govern pregnancy discrimination?
Section 14 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (SDA) makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their pregnancy or potential pregnancy (as defined in section 7 of the SDA), family responsibilities (as defined in section 7A of the SDA), or breastfeeding (as defined in section 7AA of the SDA).
Section 351 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) states that an employer must not take adverse action against a person who is an employee or prospective employee because of the person’s family or carer’s responsibilities or pregnancy, among many others.
Section 7 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sixteen attributes, including pregnancy.
What can be done about pregnancy discrimination?
If you believe you have been or are being discriminated against by your employer because of your pregnancy, sex, or a related condition, there are a number of avenues available to you to make a complaint. Anderson Fredericks Turner can assist in making a pregnancy discrimination complaint before the Australian Human Rights Commission, Fair Work Ombudsman, Fair Work Commission and Anti-Discrimination Commission.
How we can help.
Anderson Fredericks Turner is experienced in assisting clients in making complaints of workplace discrimination through the Fair Work Ombudsman, Fair Work Commission, the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland and the Australian Human Rights Commission. If you feel like you are being discriminated against or have any other legal concerns, Anderson Fredericks Turner are here to help you.
Visit AFT Lawyers or call 4724 3003 to find out more.
If you prefer to see us in person, our office is conveniently located on the Ground Floor at 61-73 Sturt Street, Townsville.
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