Women have the right to work while pregnant and be treated the same as other staff, unless there are good medical reasons for different treatment.

Discrimination against pregnant staff may include:

  • reducing their hours
  • dismissal or demotion
  • denying or limiting access to promotion, transfer, bonus pay, training or any other benefits
  • unreasonable workplace policies, practices or procedures.

Where there are medical reasons that restrict certain duties, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations.

Employers are also responsible for the behaviour of their staff if a worker discriminates against a pregnant worker.

Parental leave

Parental leave can be taken when:

  • an employee gives birth, or employee’s spouse or de facto partner gives birth
  • an employee adopts a child under 16 years of age
  • when they are the primary carer of the child.

This leave was traditionally known as maternity leave. The name change recognises that:

  • a child's primary caregiver may not necessarily be the child's mother
  • both parents - regardless of gender - should be considered for leave to care for a child.

All Australian employees are entitled to parental leave.

For casual employees to be eligible for unpaid parental leave they need to have:

  • been working for their employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months
  • a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis, had it not been for the birth or adoption of a child.

Employees taking time off work to become the primary carer of a child can take 52 weeks unpaid leave.

Some employers offer paid parental leave for a set number of weeks.

The government also pays eligible workers up to 18 weeks parental leave.

Women are usually only required to take early parental leave if there is a work health and safety reason for them to leave the workplace.

Under equal opportunity law, workers are entitled to return to the same position they held before parental leave.

If that position no longer exists, they are entitled to a role of similar status.

Employers are obliged to:

  • ensure workers are not disadvantaged by taking parental leave
  • accommodate any reasonable request for flexible work arrangements.

If you have returned, or wish to return from parental leave and think you have been discriminated against, contact us for advice.