Pregnancy and Discrimination in the Workplace

Pregnancy and Discrimination in the Workplace

It is a sad fact that in today’s society mothers and expectant mothers continue to experience discrimination and inequality in the workplace.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is currently undertaking a national review of the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination faced by pregnant women in their employment and upon returning to work after parental leave.

Unfortunately the complaints received by the AHRC and the Fair Work Commission show that discrimination continues to be a problem for women. A report released this month by the AHRC revealed that one in two mothers had encountered discrimination in the workplace while pregnant, on parental leave or upon returning to work. It comes as no surprise then that many women do not tell their employer or work colleagues until it is glaringly obvious that they are pregnant.

So when are you legally required to tell your employer that you’re pregnant?

The short answer is that there is no general legal requirement to disclose a pregnancy to your employer at a particular time.

While there is no deadline in the Fair Work Act, 2009 to apply for unpaid parental leave, you should check your employment contract or modern award to see whether you are required to give your employer notice of any form of paid leave including paid maternity leave. It is a common requirement to give your employer at least ten weeks’ notice, particularly if you wish to take some form of paid leave.

Most parental leave arrangements including unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards (NES) expect that you will commence parental leave six weeks prior to your due date, which essentially means that if you are going to take paid parental leave you will need to tell your employer about your pregnancy no later than your second trimester.

You can still work during the last six weeks of your pregnancy if you wish to, but your employer may require you to provide a certificate from your doctor confirming that you are fit to continue working, taking into account your pregnancy and the nature of your position. If in doubt your doctor or midwife will be able to provide you with advice on what duties you should and shouldn’t be doing at work.

If you don’t have enough paid leave to cover this period, your employer may direct you to commence unpaid leave.

It is important that employers do not make assumptions about a pregnant woman’s ability to perform her usual role as this may constitute discrimination.

If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination, please contact Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699 for some friendly and professional legal advice.

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