Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Inquiry into discrimination against parents in the workplace:

It's an issue we highlighted last year: Australian workplaces are not-so-family-friendly.
By Motherpedia
Date: June 23 2013
Editor Rating:
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The Gillard Government has asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct an inquiry into workplace discrimination against employees taking parental leave when they are pregnant or caring for a baby. 

“There is significant anecdotal evidence that women in particular are being demoted, sacked, or having their role or hours unfavourably ‘re-structured’ while on parental leave or on their return from leave. The inquiry will measure the prevalence of this discrimination and help ensure parents, particularly mothers, are treated fairly at work,” said Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

Motherpedia highlighted this issue in November last year through our survey of 1,000 mums. 

“We know how important it is for new mums and dads to spend time with their newborn babies, and we need to make sure that women who take this critical time off don’t get left behind in their careers, or treated unfairly at work. Not only is this unacceptable and unproductive, it is unlawful.”

The national research will be overseen by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, and will assess the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination relating to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave.

“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,” Ms Broderick said on Saturday.

The inquiry will convene a series of roundtable forums with industry and employer groups, unions, workers and other relevant organisations before preparing recommendations to reduce discrimination. 

The Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten said jobs and financial security are important to all workers, but particularly when experiencing a major life change such as becoming a parent.

“The Government has introduced new entitlements to paid and unpaid parental leave. The review will recommend ways to ensure employers understand and meet their obligations and parents are given every opportunity to return to the workforce in jobs commensurate with their experience and skills,” said Mr Shorten.

The inquiry builds on changes introduced by the Rudd and Gillard Governments to give women greater opportunity to take their place in the modern workforce and allow men to participate more actively in parenting and family life.

Terms of Reference for the national survey

The survey will include the following.

  • 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. Selected phone interviews may be conducted with target groups unable to access the online survey.
  • The Commission will provide an interim report on the survey headline data.
  • The Commission will then convene a series of roundtables and consultations nationally and in regional areas, including with government, industry and employer groups, unions, workers, women’s groups, relevant community and health organisations, and affected women not otherwise represented, to consider the prevalence data and its implications.
  • Based on the above, the Commission will prepare a research report, including recommendations, which identifies the prevalence of discrimination, adequacy of existing laws, policies procedures and practices, best practice approaches for addressing this, and proposed areas of focus for future activities to address any major matters of concern arising.
  • The Commission will seek to obtain data on the full range of family circumstances, including single parent or separating households, to determine the extent to which the impact of any discrimination may be exacerbated by family circumstances.
  • In conducting the research, the Commission will consider recent developments in the area (including the introduction and any initial evaluation of the paid parental leave scheme) as well as previous reports (such as the Commission’s National Inquiry into Pregnancy and Work, Pregnant and productive: It’s a right not a privilege to work while pregnant (1998)).

The Commission will report on the research in May 2014.

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