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Pregnancy tops discrimination in the workplace

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HC Online | 06 Nov 2013, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Australian workplaces are in the news for all the wrong reasons as pregnancy becomes the top form of discrimination.
  • JCW | 06 Nov 2013, 01:35 PM Agree 0
    Personally, I do not believe that refusal to promote a pregnant woman amounts to discrimination. Promotions usually entail added responsibility which someone on an extended period of leave would be unable to fulfil. It is difficult to promote someone to a supervisory position, for example, when that person will not be around to supervise and one has to get someone else to fill the role anyway. There could also be duty of care issues involved - some roles are simply not safe or advisable for a pregnant woman to perform. We should also consider that some demotions and/or promotion refusals were simply because of performance issues, and pregnancy and/or parental leave just happened to coincide. While it is important to have checks and balances in place to prevent discrimination and to deal with it if and when it does occur, we need to be careful that we don't create the situation where employers are unable or unwilling to performance manage employees of any minority demographic for fear of being accused of discrimination.
  • Anonymous | 06 Nov 2013, 01:50 PM Agree 0
    In all fairness, why would an employer consider a currently pregnant person for a promotion?
    I can understand upon their return if the position is still open, however how can you promote someone who will exit the business for 1-2 years?
  • Ella | 06 Nov 2013, 02:24 PM Agree 0
    JCW - I read your comment and I completely disagree. From your viewpoint, women either need to choose a promotion or their baby - basically. How would humans exist if all women chose the former. Promotions should be based on performance and pregnancy should not have anything to do with it. In a case where a female is promoted and then she learns she is pregnant, you would find a replacement for her for the time she is on maternity leave. Why should the case be different for females who learn they are pregnant before the promotion?
  • Anonymous | 06 Nov 2013, 02:45 PM Agree 0
    As a woman and a HR Practitioner it is really important to maintain a balanced view on this issue, however, it seems to me that much emphasis is placed on 'protecting' the rights of the pregnant woman, and not much placed on the needs or rights of a business owner (not all businesses are big corporations!)
  • Al | 06 Nov 2013, 03:06 PM Agree 0
    Agree with your point Anonymous. Balance is the key. I've found from experience some of the demotion complaints can actually be related to the business finding a compromise in accomodating a change from full time to part time work on return from parental leave. It's often frustrating that in today's "entitlement" culture return to work mums think they have a right to return to their previous role (and of course they do) but in addition believe they can dictate their hours in that same role. Whilst our business can often accomodate part time and job share, there are some roles where it is simply not possible. Sometimes the alternative part time role that the business offers as a compromise isn't at quite the same level but if that's the best the business can offer surely employees should be grateful for that?
  • Ann | 06 Nov 2013, 04:13 PM Agree 0
    Still think this conversation would not be happening if Men got pregnant.
    Women get pregnant, men have heart attacks, and I can get hit by a bus tomorrow - this is part of life -we shouldnt discriminate over what MIGHT happen - I was back at work in 4 months - some assuming that I might take 12 months off is wrong and shouldnt make a difference if I am the best person for the job!
  • kevin | 07 Nov 2013, 11:20 AM Agree 0
    What a wonderful mix of comments. Perhaps the rules around parental leave have got so complex and demanding that it is that and not the pregnant employee that is the issue. If you care to look in the FWA you will find that parental leave takes up more space than any any other condition of service. One of the issues that I find difficult to accept is when a pregnant employee can claim "no safe job" "paid leave" because the employer cannot find an alternate job for them to perform and this can be for 6 or more months. How do businesses survive when these conditions apply. And now we are about to extend conditions to partners. In a recent EBA bargaining session the union wanted "grandparent leave" in the agreement.
    It is all heading in the one direction.
  • Anonymous | 08 Nov 2013, 08:03 AM Agree 0
    @Ann - I don't believe this discussion was in regards to a woman maybe getting pregnant, it is if she is already pregnant and has requested the standard parental leave(1 to possibly 2 years). Naturally it would be difficult to promote someone into a role that needs to be filled(and learned with additional responsibilities) now only for it to be put off for at a minimum of 1 year. Even if it were 6 months it would be tough and normally a flexible schedule is requested upon return.

    As a woman, I agree that we shouldn't be passed up for a promotion because we have the ability/possibility of one day becoming pregnant - but that's not what is being discussed here.

    Like Al, I find that a "demotion" of sorts would fit someone's role upon return given the schedule they would like to hold however, upon mention is scoffed at because there is now a sense of entitlement.

    Each situation varies greatly, so should be handled differently. For example, a woman just left on maternity leave and is currently a supervisor however for quite sometime she hasn't played the role of a supervisor because of some of the changes in the business.
    She has already expressed that she wants to return on a part-time schedule but has no timeline or ideas at the moment. If we were to go by what happened last time, she was part-time for 4 years. With the business change that is just not possible so I mentioned the possibility that if she wants to go part-time for a long period of time, that we might consider her stepping back from that supervisory role so that someone who can devote the time required can be supervisor. This doesn't actually change her duties or pay, however first thing she said I need to go back into the exact same role even though it doesn't work for her situation.
    It causes the employer to actually be less flexible in coming up with a compromise.
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