Crackdown on pregnancy discrimination

by Cameron Edmond23 Oct 2013

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review has begun, and Australians are being encouraged to make online submissions, particularly regarding discrimination while on parental leave or upon returning to work. Men, women and community organisations who are aware of discrimination are all encouraged to submit.

“We will shortly begin consulting with employers through a separate online questionnaire as well,” Elizabeth Broderick, sex discrimination commissioner, said.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics pregnancy and employment transitions survey showed that approximately 19% of female employees believed they had experienced some level of discrimination in the workplace while pregnant. This was most commonly missing an opportunity for promotion (34%), missing training or development opportunities (32%) and receiving inappropriate or negative comments from a superior (28%).

“Despite the protections that existing Australian laws and policies provide to pregnant women, and women and men returning to work after parental leave, on occasion employees face discrimination,” Broderick said. “In the 2011-12 reporting year, 21% of complaints the Commission received under the Sex Discrimination Act related to pregnancy discrimination and family responsibilities and 21% of complaints investigated by the Fair Work Commission related to an allegation of pregnancy discrimination.”


Broderick stated the following areas were of particular interest:

  • Types of challenges faced by women and men in the workplace during a pregnancy.
  • Challenges while on parental leave.
  • Challenges upon returning to work.
  • Challenges for employers in managing these phases of pregnancy/return to work.
  • Examples of leading practices and strategies to address these challenges.
  • Gaps and practical challenges in implementing legislative and policy frameworks.


These submissions make up one part of the National Review, which is funded by the Attorney-General’s Department. Those wishing to submit can do so here.


  • by Anonymous 23/10/2013 4:20:37 PM

    Although I support flexibility for parents in the workplace and keeping them actively involved in their careers, I also wonder how much of those that feel they were overlooked for promotions are just not available for the additional workload.
    The reality is that a promotion most often means more responsibility which translates to more hours needed to complete work tasks/projects. Parents do not want to take away any time from their children, nor should they, however the foreseeable outcome would be that they would be passed over for a promotion as it doesn't fit their lifestyle.
    I don't think this is unreasonable for either the employee or employer to understand this.

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