Discrimination rife as women lose jobs for being pregnant

Pregnant women are losing their jobs or being refused part-time hours when returning from maternity leave, prompting a stern warning from the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission that pregnancy discrimination is against the law.

A recruitment agency for mums in Melbourne has seen so many cases of pregnancy discrimination it is now planning to call in the lawyers. The agency has heard from pregnant women being made redundant on their last day before maternity leave, or refused flexible hours when they come back to work.

Some employers have been forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in settlements because of unfair dismissals and unreasonable back to work demands.

pregnant woman working

Just Mums Recruitment has 70 pregnant women on its client list, many of whom signed on after losing their jobs. One staff member, expecting a farewell from her bosses when she was called in to a management meeting, was instead fired, founder Rachel Perkins tells the Herald Sun. “Being made redundant is still a massive issue and we’ve got to a point where we have to partner with a legal firm,” she says.

Ms Perkins says the agency has become an advocate by default because they continually get mums making contact and saying they have been discriminated against. “There have been women who have disclosed to their employer they are pregnant, and been made redundant that same week,” she says.

Many complaints came from women being replaced in their role. “In one case, a woman was made to train the new person who was identified to take over the very same position that she was made redundant from…so she was pregnant and made to train up her replacement before being forced out of the business,” Ms Perkins tells the Herald Sun.

Equal Opportunity Victoria Commissioner Kate Jenkins says the discrimination occurs much more than what is reported. A total of 78 complaints have been made to the commission in the past two financial years regarding pregnancy and employment.

“It is really concerning that we are not making progress on this issue — despite having equal opportunity for more than three decades,” she says. “Women with caring responsibilities still face entrenched barriers preventing their continued participation in the workplace.”

(via Herald Sun)

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