Methodology

The findings and recommendations in this Report are based on an independent assessment of the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination in the workplace related to pregnancy, parental leave and return to work. This assessment includes a detailed examination and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative research, as required by the National Review Terms of Reference.

For ease of comprehension, from this point on the Report uses the term ‘pregnancy/return to work discrimination’ to mean ‘discrimination in the workplace related to pregnancy, parental leave and return to work after parental leave’.

National Review Reference Group

The Commission established a Reference Group comprised of representatives from business, community groups, unions and academia. The Reference Group provided counsel on the research methodology, analysis of the findings and the final report including recommendations. Led by Elizabeth Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, the Reference Group members include:

  • Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group
  • Kate Carnell, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and Peter Anderson, former Chief Executive Officer, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI)
  • Ged Kearney, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions
  • Thérèse Bryant, National Women’s Officer, Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association
  • Marian Baird, Professor of Gender and Employment Relations, University of Sydney
  • Anna Davis, Co-coordinator, Working Women’s Centre, Northern Territory

The Reference Group convened at three intervals to assist the National Review to shape its research, analyse its findings and focus its recommendations. One-on-one meetings were also held with all Reference Group members to discuss the final report.

Quantitative Data

The Commission contracted Roy Morgan Research to conduct a National Telephone Survey to measure the prevalence of pregnancy/return to work discrimination. Two surveys were administered.

The Mothers Survey measured the experiences of 2000 mothers. It provides the first nationally representative data on women’s perceived experiences of discrimination in the workplace as a result of their:

  • Pregnancy
  • Request for or taking of parental leave
  • Return to work following parental leave.

The Fathers and Partners Survey measured the experiences of 1000 fathers and partners who took two weeks of leave to care for their child under the Dad and Partner Pay (DaPP) scheme available under the Australian Government’s parental leave entitlements. As only a small proportion of new fathers and partners access the DaPP scheme,[1] it is not representative of all working fathers who have had a child.

Please see Chapter 2 for results of the prevalence survey.

Qualitative Data

From the outset, the National Review aimed to consult as widely as possible with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the National Review were informed by the experiences of individuals and organisations working on and with these issues.

The National Review prepared a ‘Fact Sheet’ and ‘Issues Paper’ to provide background information and to help inform discussions and contributions through the consultation process.

Group consultations

The National Review held over 50 group consultations in the capital cities of every state and territory and in several regional centres. Through these consultations, the National Review consulted with over:

  • 85 individuals affected by discrimination
  • 180 representatives from more than 150 community organisations, including community legal centres, working women’s centres, unions, health organisations and academics[2]
  • 170 employers and business and industry peak bodies, including those from a range of business sizes, sectors and industries.

 

Figure 1: Consultations – Percentage of individuals from each stakeholder group[3]

 Consultations – Percentage of individuals from each stakeholder group

Participants in our consultations were asked to provide demographic data to enable us to ensure we were meeting with a diverse cross-section of employees and employers (including from a range of business sizes and industries). Details can be found in Appendix A.

The National Review team also had one-on-one interviews with 14 individuals who were unable to participate in the group consultations.

Submissions

In response to a call for online submissions, the National Review received a total of 447 submissions including:

  • 333 submissions from individuals who had experienced discrimination
  • 55 submissions from community organisations
  • 59 submissions from employers and from business and industry associations.

 

Figure 2: Submissions - Percentage of submissions from each stakeholder group[4]

 Submissions - Percentage of submissions from each stakeholder group

When completing the submission, the National Review collected key demographic data from individuals and organisations to ensure that a broad cross-section of the community and a range of organisations were being reached. Details can be found in Appendix A.

Many of the submissions from community organisations incorporated the experiences of individuals. Similarly, submissions from business and industry peaks and associations represented the experiences of hundreds of their members and included results from surveys conducted with members on the issue.

National roundtable

The National Review also convened a National Roundtable with representatives from business and industry groups, unions and community organisations, to consider the key findings of the data that had been collected and to discuss recommendations received from a range of stakeholders. The National Roundtable was held on 9 May 2014 in Sydney.

Research

The National Review drew upon existing research and materials on the prevalence, nature and consequences of pregnancy/return to work discrimination including:

  • Academic and social policy research from Australian and international sources
  • Data on enquiries and complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Fair Work Ombudsman, and State and Territory anti-discrimination and equal opportunity authorities
  • Federal case law on the subject.

This research supported the Review’s understanding of the issues, and helped the National Review design its quantitative and qualitative research. The research also helped to inform the findings contained in this Report.

Principles underpinning the Review methodology

The methodology employed by the National Review was based on the following principles:

Comprehensive

All effort was made to ensure that the information gathered and received by the National Review was as broad and extensive as possible.

Consultative

All relevant stakeholders were provided with multiple avenues to contribute to the National Review and these opportunities were promoted as widely as possible. The National Review aimed to consult with a diverse range of stakeholders to ensure that the diversity of experiences of women and men and of different organisations was reflected in the National Review’s findings and recommendations.

Voluntary

Involvement of all participants in the National Review process was voluntary. Participants could withdraw at any time.

Confidential

The National Review recorded most of the individual interviews and group consultations. Information gathered from these consultations has been de-identified and confidentiality has been strictly maintained. In addition, the National Review team ensured that individuals impacted by sharing their experiences of discrimination during the consultations had access to support services.

Similarly, all submissions from affected individuals have been de-identified. As a further precaution, no associated demographic information is reported that could be used to identify individuals.

Evidence based

The National Review has based its findings and recommendations on the extensive quantitative and qualitative research it gathered through the review process, as well as on existing academic and social policy research.


[1] In the 6 month period following the introduction of the ‘Dad and Partner Pay’ scheme (January – June 2013), 26,212 fathers and partners accessed the scheme. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), Annual Report 2012-2013, p 40. At http://www.dss.gov.au/about-the-department/publications-articles/corporate-publications/annual-reports/fahcsia-annual-report-2012-2013 (viewed 1 April 2014).
[2] Also included under community organisations are state and territory anti-discrimination and equal opportunity authorities.

[3] Note that the numbers within the chart refer to percentages of the overall number of individuals rather than the number of individuals themselves.

[4] Note that the numbers within the chart refer to percentages of the overall number of individuals rather than the number of individuals themselves.