Discrimination of pregnant employees is a serious issue in Australian workplaces – reports last month revealed it is now the top work discrimination complaint in the country.
Despite a landmark case in early November that saw a retailer hit with the highest ever discrimination-based penalties in Australia after neglecting a pregnant worker, there is still a lot to be done to ensure that the rights of pregnant employees and working parents are being observed and that businesses are prepared to deal with flexible working arrangements, wherever possible.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that offering flexible work arrangements helps pregnant women and new mothers in Australia make seamless transitions out of and back into work.
Fiona Dowsley, ABS director of social and progress reporting, said many workers used flexible work arrangements when returning to work after the birth of a child, with four out of five mothers choosing to work part-time.
She added that people perhaps underestimated how important women think it is to return to work following pregnancy. “The most common main reason given by mothers for returning to work were [sic] to keep their job or because their employer had requested their return,” she said in a November 20 media release. “Financial considerations and maintaining self-esteem were also issues.”
Ernst and Young’s Untapped opportunity: The role of women in unlocking Australia’s productivity potential report earlier this year also highlighted the fact that women in highly flexible roles tend to be more productive than the rest of the working population.
All of these reports show that giving women in all workplaces equal opportunity is still an area where improvement is needed and pregnancy considerations are a good place to start.
Organisations can seek advice from an HR consulting firm around how to be prepared for dealing with parental leave and flexible working arrangements requests. Now more than ever, EEO training to educate managers on gender discrimination is essential as mistakes can easily be made. iHR Australia’s factsheet on Parental Leave contains useful information for managers.