The Guardian August 23, 2000


Pregnancy discrimination

Delegates at the ACTU's National Women's Conference in Adelaide this 
week condemned the Federal Coalition Government for its lack of action in 
implementing the recommendations of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity 
Commission's report on discrimination against pregnant women.

Delegates heard directly from women who had been victimised because of 
pregnancy.

Petrice told how she had been working as a casual sales assistant for 18 
months when she was removed from the roster after her manager learnt that 
she was pregnant.

Joanne, a security guard, was sacked when she requested maternity leave to 
have her second child. She had been working for 17 years as a casual.

She was only reinstated and given three months' maternity leave when her 
union intervened.

"Women workers need laws that protect against this type of discrimination 
and support them in their role as mothers", said ACTU Vice-President Helen 
Creed.

Ms Creed said it was shameful that the Government had not moved on the 
recommendations of Pregnant and Productive, the Human Rights and 
Equal Opportunity Commission's report into pregnancy at work, which the 
Government had received 12 months ago.

It recommends legislative changes including:

* giving casual workers with 12 months service access to maternity leave;
* outlawing discrimination against breast-feeding mothers;
* legislating against recruitment practices that discriminate against 
pregnant women;
* developing an enforcable Code of Practice on pregnancy at work;
* giving victims of pregnancy discrimination access to punitive damages.

The stories are also a grim reminder of the prevalence of "casual" work, 
particularly amongst women workers, and the need to take action to ensure 
ongoing jobs (part-time or full-time) are treated as such with full 
entitlements.

The Adelaide conference is part of the international Global March against 
Poverty and Violence towards women which will culminate in a presentation 
of demands from women around the world to the ILO in October 2000.

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