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Commission to undertake pregnancy and return to work research

Discrimination Sex Discrimination

The Australian Human Rights Commission has been asked by the Australian Government to undertake a research into the prevalence and nature of discrimination as it relates to women who are pregnant at work and people returning to work after parental leave.

“This is a critical area of work and the Commission welcomes the opportunity to conduct this research,” said Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick. “The number of complaints received by the Commission and Fair Work Australia in these areas indicates that discrimination in relation to pregnancy and return to work after parental leave is a continuing problem in Australia.”

Commissioner Broderick said that such discrimination places significant barriers to advancing women’s participation in the workplace and women’s contribution to productivity in workplaces.

“Unfortunately there is no comprehensive data currently collected on the magnitude of the problem,” Ms Broderick said. “We need to undertake rigorous research that will identify the prevalence and nature of pregnancy-related discrimination, to analyse the adequacy of the current regulatory and policy framework and to identity best practice.”

As part of this research, the Commission will conduct a national online prevalence survey to assess the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination relating to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave.

When considering the prevalence data and its implications, the Commission will convene a series of roundtables and consultations across the country in both cities and regional areas. Parties to be included will come from government, industry and employer groups, unions, workers, women’s groups, relevant community and health organisations, and affected women not otherwise represented.

At the conclusion of this research and consultation process, the Commission will prepare a report, including recommendations, that will address: the prevalence of discrimination; adequacy of existing laws; policies, procedures and practices - and best practice approaches; and proposed areas of focus for future activities intended to address any major matters of concern that have arisen during the process.

The Commission will report on the research in May 2014.

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Media contact: Brinsley Marlay 02 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529