Government Study Finds Widespread Discrimination Against Pregnant Women In Australian Workplaces

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Every second working woman in Australia who becomes pregnant feels the displeasure of their employers, according to a survey commissioned by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

This is what they say is happening to them: cuts in salary, missing out on training, professional development and promotional opportunities

And on returning to work: negative comments about breastfeeding or working part-time or flexibly and being denied requests to work flexibly.

The commission’s report, Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review, found that one in two women in Australia reported discrimination at work during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work.

While prevalent at all stages, discrimination was commonly reported upon return to work (35%) followed by when requesting or on parental leave (32%) and during pregnancy (27%).

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said this was first nationally representative survey of women’s perceived experiences of discrimination as a result of their pregnancy, request for or taking of parental leave, and their return to work following parental leave

She says such discrimination has a cost, to women, their families, to business and to the Australian economy and society as a whole.

The review found discrimination takes many forms ranging from negative attitudes and comments through to dismissal and that many women experience multiple forms of discrimination.

The vast majority of mothers (84%) reported a significant negative impact related to mental health including stress, and a negative impact on their confidence and self-esteem, physical health, career and job opportunities, financial stability and their families.

And it’s not just the women. Fathers also report discrimination.

“Despite taking very short periods of parental leave, over a quarter (27%) of the father and partner respondents reported experiencing discrimination during parental leave or when they returned to work,” Ms Broderick said.

“The data reflects what I have heard about negative attitudes towards men taking parental leave or working flexibly to care for their children.”

One in two (49%) mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work:

The Australian Human Rights Commission contracted Roy Morgan Research to conduct a National Survey to measure the prevalence of discrimination in the workplace related to pregnancy, parental leave and return to work following parental leave.

The Mothers Survey measured the experience of 2000 birth and adoptive mothers. The Fathers and Partners Survey measured the experience of 1000 fathers and partners.

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