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Commission Commission – General

1 November 2000


Sex Discrimination
Commissioner Susan Halliday today welcomed the Federal Government response
to the recommendations of the National Pregnancy and Work Inquiry.

"I commend the Federal
Government for agreeing to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to clarify
that particular interview questions and pregnancy testing are prohibited
as part of the job interview process. I am also very pleased that the
Government has agreed to include breastfeeding as a specific ground of
discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act.

In its response to
the report the Government, with the assistance of specialist agencies
such as the Office of the Employment Advocate, has agreed to monitor and
produce material on pregnancy and potential pregnancy discrimination.
"I am encouraged by the Government's in-principle support of education
on issues of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. It is imperative
that pregnancy discrimination is seen as a mainstream industrial relations

Culturally specific
education material will be developed for indigenous women, who were identified
as a group particularly vulnerable to pregnancy discrimination. Particular
attention will also be given to education and services in rural and remote
areas, including improved communication facilities and medical information.

"I am however disappointed
that several of the more difficult recommendations aimed at eliminating
widespread systemic inequality have not been supported," Commissioner
Halliday said. "This includes not introducing unpaid maternity leave for
casual employees. The New South Wales and Queensland governments enshrined
this right under state industrial legislation for casuals whose employment
has been continuous for 24 months."

The federal government
rejected the specific recommendation to examine national paid maternity
leave options used by 157 nations around the world. "This recommendation
was aimed at providing the data needed for an informed debate within Australia.
It is impossible to have informed debate if we refuse to collect the data."

"Legislative frameworks
need to reflect our labour market realities. Human rights law must not
be allowed to stagnate. The time has come to update the legal protection
women are entitled to," said Commissioner Halliday.

"I am pleased with
the positive messages for women in the Government's response, but there
remains much work to be done. Let us not forget, it is a right not a privilege
to work while pregnant. I look forward to working with the Government
on the recommendations that have been accepted, and pursuing with vigour
those that haven't."

Media contact:
Janine MacDonald (02) 9284 9880 or 0412 783 631

To view the Government's
response to the recommendations of the National Pregnancy and Work Inquiry

The Human Rights
and Equal Opportunity Commission has prepared a Summary
of the recommendations agreed to by Government.

To view the Minister
for Family & Community Services and MinisterAssisting the Prime Minister
for the Status of Women's Media Release click

© Human Rights
and Equal Opportunity Commission. Last updated 2 December 2001.

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