Despite longstanding prohibitions against pregnancy/return to work discrimination, the National Review found that it is pervasive.
One in two (49%) mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point.
Further, over a quarter (27%) of the fathers and partners surveyed reported experiencing discrimination related to parental leave and return to work despite taking very short periods of leave.
Both the quantitative and qualitative data confirmed that pregnant employees and working parents experience many different types of discrimination in the workplace. These range from negative attitudes and comments from colleagues and managers, through to loss of opportunities for further training and career advancement, reduction in pay and conditions, as well as redundancy and job loss.
This discrimination has significant short-term and long-term negative impacts on individuals and their families, including effects on their mental and physical health and long-term career advancement and earning capacity. Some groups of individuals, such as sole parents and young mothers, may face particular vulnerabilities and more acute consequences.
As well as these individual effects, the National Review found that discrimination has a tangible impact on women’s workforce participation.
The National Prevalence Survey revealed that experiences of discrimination in the workplace during pregnancy influence whether women return to work following the birth of their child – 32% of all mothers who were discriminated against at some point went to look for another job or resigned.
Further, almost one in five (18%) mothers indicated that they were made redundant or that their jobs were restructured, that they were dismissed or that their contract was not renewed during their pregnancy, when they requested or took parental leave, or when they returned to work.
Such discrimination, particularly where it results in job loss or the withdrawal from the workforce, can have significant long-term effects.
Overall, the Survey’s findings demonstrate that discrimination towards pregnant employees and working parents remains a widespread and systemic issue which inhibits the full and equal participation of working parents, and in particular, women, in the labour force.
(Excerpt from the Executive Summary, Australian Human Rights Commission)