Dads 'facing discrimination'

FATHERS and father-to-be are being discriminated against just as much as mothers in the workforce, according to a new pregnancy and return-to-work report.

The national Supporting Working Parents report, released last week, found that 27 per cent of men surveyed experienced discrimination when requesting to take parental leave.

Tasmanian anti-discrimination commissioner Robin Banks said that men across the state were being told things like it was the women's responsibility to take time off and that they couldn't possible do their full-time job on a part-time basis.

"We even had a complaint here where that was made to a male employee (at a business) where women had been given flexible work arrangements," Ms Banks said.

"In increasing situations, it may well be that the woman has got the greater earning capacity, and families need to be able to make that choice about what's going to work best economically for them.

"It's one of the things that's changing quite quickly and we need employers to understand that."

Ms Banks said there were three common inquiries with regard to pregnancy and return-to-work discrimination.

The first was when woman advised their employer that they were pregnant.

"Particularly for people in casual positions, we see people losing employment and we see decisions being made about what the suitable work should be for them without any consultation," Ms Banks said.

Ms Banks said she had seen incidences when during maternity leave, a new parent's job was structured out of existence.

She said parents were also not being offered flexible work hours.

"Private, public and community sector organisations need to really look at their employment practices and explore how flexibility can look," Ms Banks said.

"A lot of what we see, is that organisations say, 'well we haven't done that in the past, so we can't do it now'. If we want to be a modern economy, we have to be able to respond to this."

The national Supporting Working Parents report revealed only 9 per cent of people who inquired about workplace pregnancy discrimination filed a formal complaint. Ms Banks said that was consistent with the situation in Tasmania.

"You have other priorities and you may also be fearful that you'll loose your job if you file a complaint," Ms Banks said.

Last year, five formal complaints were sent to the Tasmanian anti-discrimination office in regards to pregnancy, while 11 were filled due to parental leave problems.

Four complaints about pregnancy were filled in 2012 and 14 about parental leave.

To talk to someone at the anti-discrimination office about workplace issues call 1300 305 062 or email antidiscrimination@justice.tas.gov.au.

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