Skip to main content

Pregnancy FACT SHEET

Back to Pregnancy Guidelines

Pregnancy FACT SHEET

  1. 18% of complaints received by the Commission in 1999-2000 concerned alleged
    discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or potential pregnancy.

  2. In 1998, 3.7 million women
    were employed and approximately 250,000 live births were recorded
    in Australia.

  3. The average age of women
    at the birth of their first child is 29 years.

  4. This is also the age
    of greatest career progression and when women are entering their prime
    earning years.

  5. Increasing numbers of
    women put off having children in many cases due to work pressures
    and the expectation of women's primary role in child-care. The percentage
    of Australian women over 40 without children has grown in 10 years
    from 8% to 12% and that proportion is set to increase.

  6. A massive 54% of women
    in one study believed that their careers have been affected by taking
    maternity leave. A further 44.1% say their salaries stall, 30.4% believe
    their careers take a backward step and 29.9% say they sacrificed their
    careers when they gave birth.

  7. Current low fertility
    rates (1.86 children per woman) indicate a growing trend by women
    to make a choice between work and family rather than seeking both.
    Such choices are still necessary partly because of the failure of
    workplace practices to accommodate the realities of pregnancy and
    family responsibilities.

To what extent do I as
an employer have to accommodate an employee's pregnancy?

Employers should
consider making all reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate
the normal effects of pregnancy. Employers need to discuss the issues
with the pregnant employee to find solutions.

When can I lawfully refuse
to employ a pregnant applicant?

An employer can
lawfully refuse to employ a pregnant applicant if she is unable to adequately
perform the duties required for the position; where there may be OH&S
issues in the workplace that cannot be resolved and if the position
required the completion of a specific project and the applicant would
be unable to meet the deadlines. This is unusual.

My workplace has an equal
opportunity policy .....isn't that enough?

All employers regardless
of size or industry type can benefit from developing anti-discrimination
policies. Wise employers ensure that all employees are familiar with
the policy and are educated about their rights and responsibilities.
However, the existence of equal opportunity policies does not necessarily
mean that the employer will be automatically protected in the event
of a complaint of discrimination. Amongst other things, the employer
should be able to show that the policies are practically and continually
implemented in the workplace.

If an employee of mine
discriminates, then that's their problem isn't it?

An employer may
be vicariously liable for the actions of an employee or may be directly
liable if it is found that it allowed, encouraged or contributed to
the discrimination and did not have adequate policies and procedures
in place to prevent and deal with discriminatory attitudes and practices
in the workplace.

What am I meant to do
when an employee of mine is a casual, is pregnant, but doesn't have
a right to maternity leave?

Some casual
employees qualify for unpaid maternity leave. Moreover, pregnant employees
who do not qualify for maternity leave are still protected by the federal
Sex Discrimination Act. Employers and employees can negotiate a fair
and reasonable period of leave for those who do not qualify for maternity
leave. For example the employer could provide access to other forms
of leave (annual leave or unpaid leave).

What if my employee returns
to work after maternity leave and I just can't give her the same old
job back because of changes in the workplace?

An employee is
generally entitled to return to the position she held prior to commencing
leave or to a comparable position if her original job has ceased to
exist. Employers should note that an employee may wish to return to
work on a part-time basis, and some State laws specifically allow for
return to part-time work after maternity leave by agreement with the
employer. In some situations, an employer may be deemed to have discriminated
if a reasonable request for part-time work is refused.