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49% of pregnant women experience workplace discrimination

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HC Online | 14 Apr 2014, 11:18 AM Agree 0
Shelved promotions and scaled-back roles are just some of the challenges pregnant women routinely face in the workforce – and HR professionals are not immune to discrimination.
  • Hedi | 14 Apr 2014, 12:36 PM Agree 0
    As a HR professional I never thought that this could happen to me either. I have a great Manager but even I got "restructured" into a different role while on maternity leave with more hours per week that I can't do because of my daycare arrangements. The only other thing on offer is piecemeal casual work with no security or regularlty of hours. With two kids, how is that evena choice? Even with the best of intentions some Managers don't realise the impact of their actions for pregnant women or those returning from maternity leave. I really resent those people who say that mothers made the choice to have children, etc, etc. That's true but if women stop having babies whose taxes will pay for your healthcare and pensions as you age?
  • caca | 14 Apr 2014, 12:38 PM Agree 0
    Something to remember is a year is a long time to be away from a business. If those keeping in touch days aren't used then naturally the business may have changed substantially while the person was on parental leave.
    In almost every instance I've seen that the parent has held out for 2 years without much contact and then either chooses to not return or wants to come back part-time. The problem is part-time for our type of business just doesn't work well and inevitably someone else will have additional duties (and in all of these cases has felt that because they do not have family responsibilities that they are actually being discriminated against).

    By the way, duties SHOULD be passed on slowly through someone's pregnancy so that questions can be asked/answered in advance and of course pregnancies are not always predictable so naturally the woman can go into early labour. I'm not sure why the person in the story would think of it as discrimination.
  • Amanda | 14 Apr 2014, 12:54 PM Agree 0
    I agree caca that a lot changes in a business in 1-2 years. I would add though that is that maternity leave isn't really like other leave. The women are already worried about juggling caring responsibilties while still holding on to their sense of self and the career that they worked hard for. Emotions and stress levels run very high at these times and Managers need to be tactful in how they address the needs of the business. I think you're right that it's not necessarily discrimination but I think that the way that these things are handled can sometimes bruise an already fragile ego.
  • Dazza | 14 Apr 2014, 01:24 PM Agree 0
    Hedi, please research the legislation further, you are legally entitled to your old job back, with the same pay, duties and responsibilities; however should you need to reduce your hours because of carers responsibilities, you can request permanent part time hours with pro-rata pay and entitlements. Caca, it might be worthwhile to 'look outside the box' and establish a workable solution that suits both the business and the entitled mother or father, as business and the giving of life must both go on!
  • Ann-Marie | 14 Apr 2014, 01:57 PM Agree 0
    Sometimes these actions happen because the manager is 'scared' of pregnancy and any potential complications and forget that pregnancy is not an illness, it is a condition, that in some cases, has the symptoms of illness. Some managers I have dealt with, are so concerned about the welfare of the employee that they wrap them in cotton wool but by doing that they can unintentionally discriminate. I do agree that tasks should be slowly handed over, leading up to maternity leave, but as Amanda stated, it needs to be done tactfully and appropriately, and the pregnant employee should not be left with nothing to do. I have been on both sides of the fence on this one, and it can be quite disheartening if not handled well.
  • Hedi | 14 Apr 2014, 02:02 PM Agree 0
    Thanks for your comments Dazza. I am aware of my rights under the legislation but there is a world of difference between theory and reality. My manager actually wants to increase the number of days I work because the work I did before was successful and created a greater need within the organisation. I am already part-time at a number of days that I can work out with my commitments.

    I agree with your comments but the reality is that when you are in this position you tend to feel very restricted in your choices. I was (am?) working in a good part-time job for a good manager in a flexible organisation doing a job I was actually qualified to do. That's the holy grail for many mothers. The risk of losing that and not finding anything similar when my family needs the second income makes it very challenging indeed to find the balance between my rights and "business needs". One can indeed "request" work arrangements but that doesn't mean they will be granted. The argument that things need to be in line with "business needs" is a broad brush that can be applied very liberally.
  • Harley | 14 Apr 2014, 02:05 PM Agree 0
    I find it really odd when I hear stories about Mothers returning to work. I've found them to be a real asset to the teams they go back into. They often have a broader perspective on the work they are doing, and are less inclinded to participate in negative workplace gossip. Of course that's a generalisation, they're still the same person; but something about having to clean up vomit and poop seems to make you less likely to care about little things.
  • Stephanie | 15 Apr 2014, 12:16 PM Agree 0
    I believe that there are managers who are afraid of the concept of pregnancies in the years in which young women are in a stable/committed relationship. I'm certain that my former manager avoided providing me the opportunity to move up, all the while informing me that I wasn't working hard enough or didn't have enough skills behind me. In a similar story to Justine, I was discouraged from applying for the senior role within my own team. I was performing the work for that role and simply did not "deserve" the title or recognition from them, even after raising it in every performance review. When I left for another role, I later heard that my responsibilites were shuffled to the new male in the senior position. I bet he is enjoying the role, with his 20-40K extra in the pocket.
  • Adam P | 15 Apr 2014, 12:28 PM Agree 0
    We had a woman go on maternity leave, she had been training her temp replacement for six weeks. When she left, it was obvious that she had not adequately trained, and had been doing a lot of the tasks herself right up to the last minute; so we had a person who was quite literally left in the dark. (Our pregnant woman had made comments to other staff that she wanted to ensure that she was indispensable, so that her job would be safe!)

    And then the new girl learned all, and did in two days what previously (well before pregnancy) had taken five.

    Dilemma - the job is now "different", it only takes two days - do we have to offer our new mother her old job of five days; we are discriminating if we don't?

    (The case went to industrial lawyers to sort out, the new mother took a redudancy payment; the replacement worker went elsewhere as she needed full time; and we advertised the role as permanent part time).

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