Pregnancy overtakes disability as the main workplace discrimination complaint

For the first time pregnancy discrimination is now Australia's number one complaint against employers, with pregnant women in the workforce reportedly facing more discrimination than those with a disability, a new report has found.

The Fair Work Obudsman's Annual Report revealed that for the first time figures indicate that there are more pregnancy-related cases of discrimination than complaints relating to mental or physically disability. And more people believe their family responsibilities see them treated differently by their bosses.

Of the 253 workplace discrimination complaints investigated by the workplace watchdog over the past 12 months, 28% were from pregnant women, up 7% from from 2010-11. By contrast, 21% were from people with disabilities, a figured that has fallen from 25%. In the 2012-2013 financial year, nearly a third of all complaints made to Fair Work were pregnancy related.

From July 2009 to July 2013 the ombudsman investigated 692 discrimination complaints – 133 of which related to pregnancy discrimination.

Earlier this year the Australian Human Rights Commission announced it would undertake a National Review, funded by the Attorney-General's office, that it would conduct an inquiry into return to work practises after parental leave beginning this month and will measure the prevalence of the discrimination to ensure parents, and particularly mothers, are treated fairly at work.

It said there was 'significant' anecdotal evidence to suggest that parents, and women in particular, were being demoted, sacked or having their roles 're-structured while on leave or when they returned to work.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick who is heading up the National Review is calling for online submissions for women and men who say they have experienced discrimination while on parental leave or upon return to work.

"Despite the protections that existing Australian laws and policies provide to pregnant women, and women and men returning to work after parental leave, on occasion employees face discrimination." Broderick said in a statement.

Data released late last year from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed similar findings, with the ABS report revealing that nearly one in five women perceived a level of discrimination in the workplace while pregnant.

The National Review is scheduled to release a report next year.

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