Children should be a cause for celebration, not discrimination.

  • 49% of mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace during pregnancy, parental leave or when returning to work.
  • 1 in 5 mothers lose their job during pregnancy, parental leave or upon returning to work.
  • Being pregnant, or a working parent does not mean that you cannot continue to make a valuable contribution to your organisation.

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This guide is updated as at 1st July 2015

You have rights under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), state and territory anti-discrimination legislation, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and federal, state or territory work, health and safety legislation.

Effective communication between you and your manager about these rights and obligations will enable you to keep working safely.

The Employee Guide titled Pregnancy, parental leave and return to work: know your rights provides you with more detailed information on your rights. It also has contact details for organisations that can help you, for example, to resolve disputes and make a complaint.

Working while pregnant or potentially pregnant

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Being pregnant does not mean that you cannot continue to make a valuable contribution to the organisation. It is against the law to discriminate against you because you are pregnant.

Notice: While employees do not generally have to notify their employer that they are pregnant, there may be health and safety reasons to do so. Also, you need to notify your employer to access certain employee entitlements. For example, if you have worked for your employer for at least 12 months before the date of birth or expected date of birth of your child and you are planning on taking unpaid parental leave under the Fair Work Act, you must, if practicable, tell your employer at least 10 weeks before you intend to start this leave.

Requesting and going on unpaid parental leave

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Under the Fair Work Act, employees with at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer immediately before the birth or expected birth of their child are entitled to take 12 months of unpaid parental leave if they will have a responsibility for the care of the child. This applies to both the pregnant employee and the spouse or partner of a pregnant woman.

Casual employees who have been employed for 12 months immediately before the date of birth or the expected date of birth of the child and but for the birth or expected birth of the child the employee would have a reasonable expectation of continuing employment by the employer on a regular and systematic basis are also entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave.

Returning to work

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Guarantee: If you are entitled to unpaid parental leave under the Fair Work Act, you have the right at the end of that leave to return to your pre-parental leave position. This is known as the return to work guarantee. If you have taken a negotiated period of leave over the birth of your child, outside of the Fair Work Act entitlements, it may be discriminatory if your employer refuses to allow you to return to your pre-leave position.

Flexible work arrangement: Under the Fair Work Act, employees who have completed at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer immediately before making the request and who have responsibility for the care of a child who is of school age or younger may request a flexible working arrangement.

Casual employees are entitled to make a request in circumstances where they are a long term casual employee of the employer (i.e. they have been employed on a regular and systematic basis for a sequence of periods of employment during a period of at least 12 months) and have a reasonable expectation of continuing employment with the employer on a regular and systematic basis.

Commencing and ending employment

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When you apply for or start a new job, an employer must not refuse to employ you and must not treat you less favourably than another job applicant because of your sex, pregnancy, potential pregnancy, marital/relationship status, family responsibilities or breastfeeding.

While employers can decide to terminate your employment, or make your position redundant while you are pregnant, on parental leave, or after returning to work from parental leave, they must be very careful to ensure that your pregnancy, parental leave or family responsibilities is not one of the reasons for that decision.

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