Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review
Resources for Supporting Working Parents Project
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has funded the Australian Human Rights Commission to develop resources for employers and employees on obligations, rights and entitlements in relation to pregnancy, parental leave and return to work in the workplace.
This Project arose out of the Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review that identified that the strategy with the highest impact in reducing discrimination related to pregnancy, parental leave and return to work is to address the gap that currently exists between the law and its proper implementation within organisations. The National Review recommended that to bridge this gap, there is a need to develop and disseminate clear, comprehensive and consistent information that will assist employers and employees to increase and enhance their understanding of obligations and rights, and how they should be applied in the workplace. The information needs to cover all relevant jurisdictions and explain the interaction of obligations under different laws.
This project aims to maximise the participation of women in the workforce, through development of a practical resource on employers’ legal obligations, employees’ rights and leading strategies on how to best manage and support working parents through pregnancy, parental leave, and on return to work after parental leave.
The Commission will launch the resources in mid-2015.
For further information on the Project, please see the Project Factsheet:
- To read the Report click here.
- To read the Community Guide click here.
- To read the Media Release for the launch click here.
- To read Elizabeth Broderick's speech from the launch click here.
- To view the Recorded livestream from the launch click here.
On 22 June 2013, the Attorney-General’s Department asked the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, on behalf of the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct a national review on the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination in relation to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave.
The significant number of complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Fair Work Australia indicate that discrimination against pregnant employees and against men and women returning to work after taking parental leave continues to be a problem in Australian workplaces.
The National Review will involve collection of quantitative and qualitative data to assess the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination at work related to pregnancy and during, or on return to work after parental leave. It will also seek to understand the challenges faced by employers in accommodating the needs of pregnant employees and women and men returning to work after parental leave, as well as identify leading practices and strategies for addressing these challenges. This will be done through:
- a national telephone survey on the prevalence of discrimination;
- consultations through online written submissions, group discussions and interviews;
- a national roundtable with relevant stakeholders to discuss the findings of the survey and recommendations; and
- desktop research.
The purpose of the national telephone survey is to collect prevalence data. In contrast, consultations aim to gather qualitative data on the nature and consequences of discrimination faced by men and women affected and the challenges and leading strategies of employers.
The National Review will also involve analysis of the adequacy of existing laws and policies.
Further details on the methodology and timeframe can be found on the National Review Factsheet.
Aims of the National Review
The objectives of this National Review project include:
- To provide national benchmark data and analysis on the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination at work related to pregnancy and during, or on return to work after parental leave;
- To engage stakeholders including government, industry and employer groups, unions and workers to understand perspectives and experiences, and consider the prevalence data and its implications;
- To identify leading practices and strategies for employers supporting pregnant employees and men and women returning from parental leave; and
- To provide recommendations for future actions to address the forms of discrimination identified through the project.
A Reference Group consisting of 7 members representing business, community groups, unions and academics has been established to provide counsel on the research methodology, analysis of the findings and the final report and recommendations. For further details on the Reference Group click here.
To read the terms of reference for the National Review, please click here.
Consultations and submission process
In conducting the National Review, the Commission has consulted widely with relevant stakeholders, including women and men who have experienced discrimination at work while pregnant, or on return to work after taking parental leave, government, industry and business peaks, employers, and organisations working with affected women and men. Please click here for an Issues Paper that provides background information on some of the matters being considered by the National Review.
Consultations were held in every capital city in each state and territory and some regional centres in late 2013.
The National Review submissions process is now closed. To view public submissions received, please click here.
Headline Prevalence Data
On 7 April 2014, the Commission released a Headline Prevalence Data report from a National Telephone Survey measuring discrimination in the workplace related to pregnancy, parental leave and return to work following parental leave.
The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (the SDA) makes it against the law to treat a person unfairly because of their sex, family responsibilities or because they are pregnant. The SDA can also provide some protections to people wanting to return to work after parental leave. If you would like more information about what might be covered by the SDA or you would like to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, you can contact our Complaint Information Service on:
Complaint Info Line: 1300 656 419
Fax: 02 9284 9611
TTY: 1800 620 241
NRS: 133 677
If you need an interpreter you can call 131 450 and ask to be connect to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
To make a complaint online click here.
More information is also available at the Complaints Section of this website.
Resources for further information
- Fair Work Ombudsman: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/leave/parental-leave/Pages/default.aspx
- Workplace Gender Equality Agency: https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/2013-05-10_branded_ppl.pdf
- ASX Corporate Governance Council: http://www.asx.com.au/regulation/corporate-governance-council.htm
- Australian Industry Group Bizassist Infoline: 1300 78 38 44
- Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (and state and territory Chambers of Commerce): http://www.acci.asn.au
- Australian Council of Trade Unions: http://www.actu.org.au/HelpDesk/default.aspx
- Working Women’s Centres: http://www.wwc.org.au
- The unexpected side-effect of pregnancy: discrimination is a short online video created by Victoria Legal Aid to raise awareness among employees about pregnancy and return to work discrimination: http://www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/find-legal-answers/discrimination-harassm...