Discrimination affecting mothers

A PREGNANT woman who worked at a swimming pool was told by her Tasmanian employer that she may want to leave her job because ``pregnant women look gross''.

Anti-discrimination commissioner Robin Banks documented this example of pregnancy discrimination in January, in a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission's national review, released last week.

Ms Banks found that pregnant and working mothers in Tasmania were likely to experience some form of pregnancy discrimination, where women are sacked due to pregnancy or must leave work due to inflexible employers who will not accommodate parental and pregnancy needs.

Her findings are consistent with the AHRC's final report, which found that almost half of 2000 surveyed mothers had experienced workplace discrimination because of pregnancy, including dismissal, negative attitudes, and pay cuts.

``A positive response to pregnancy and parental leave experiences in the workforce remains elusive for many Tasmanian women,'' Ms Banks wrote.

``This is symptomatic of a community where out-dated 

perceptions continue to be held and employers lack an understanding of their responsibilities.'' 

While formal complaints were low, with 24 complaints last year, Ms Banks said unfavourable treatment of pregnant women was a recurring issue.

Australian Services Union Tasmania organiser Kath Ryman said disputes relating to parental needs were common.

She provided an example of one mother who went on maternity leave with the understanding that she would return to work part-time, and after six months, be reinstated to a full-time position.

``She was told by the employer that there wasn't a position to return to.  This woman had put mortgage repayments on hold, and had planned childcare,'' Ms Ryman said.

``She had to fight to prove the arrangement.  It caused a great deal of stress, and had a big financial impact.''

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