Prevent Discrimination against Pregnant Workers

Prevent Discrimination against Pregnant Workers

New booklets launched today by the Acting Premier, the Hon Rob Hulls, spell out the rights and obligations of employers and employees before, during and after an employees pregnancy, in an bid to prevent women being disadvantaged in the workplace.

The booklets are produced by Workforce Victoria and developed in collaboration with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Jobwatch.

"The right to work and the choice to become pregnant should be a seamless part of the normal experience for women in the workforce," said Dr Helen Szoke, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission's chief executive officer. "Yet, despite long-standing and new legislation protecting the rights of women who are pregnant or rearing children, women continue to be disadvantaged when attempting to combine their right to work with their choice to have children."

In 2007/8, 246 women contacted the Commission with enquiries related to pregnancy discrimination and the Commission dealt with 56 formal complaints of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

The following case example is typical of the experience of many women.
Late in her maternity leave, a woman is informed by her employer that her position no longer exists; the duties have been transferred to another employee. She is offered an administrative role - a position not comparable to the senior and externally focused role she held before taking maternity leave. This woman had been with the company for many years and felt she was a loyal employee, very bound to the company.

"Good human rights protections should be compatible with good business," said Dr Szoke. "From a human rights perspective, women have the right to be free from discrimination in the work place. From a business perspective, women are highly skilled and of great economic value to individual organisations and the nation as a whole."

When thinking about good business, consider that women make up 45 per cent of the full-time workforce. Seventy per cent of women of childbearing age are working, and a large proportion of women who become pregnant during their working life fully intend to return to work.

"The Commission believes that workplaces need more help with developing good policies on pregnancy and return-to work. Clear policy will allow people to focus on their work and babies, rather than worry about job security. This makes good sense for women, their families and business," said Dr Szoke.