Pregnancy discrimination at work in Victoria
Pregnancy discrimination at work in Victoria: A snapshot
This project investigates pregnancy discrimination in Victorian workplaces using qualitative and quantitative research methods. Its significance includes addressing a marked information gap regarding the experiences of pregnant women at work in Victoria. The project involves collaboration with the leading employment rights legal centre in Victoria, JobWatch Inc.
Project background and aims
Pregnancy discrimination continues to be prevalent in Australian workplaces. A 2014 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission (‘AHRC’) found that 49% of new mothers experienced discrimination in the workplace on at least one occasion and of them, 55% reported experiencing discrimination more than once. Women who experienced discrimination during pregnancy are likely to be younger women aged 18-24.
Despite the prevalence of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, very little is known about it. Few people who experience pregnancy discrimination go on to lodge a formal claim. Most discrimination claims that are lodged are settled confidentially or withdrawn, and the equal opportunity commissions (which investigate claims) do not publish any data about the nature of the pregnancy discrimination complaints they receive. There is also a lack of scholarly understanding about the characteristics of women who experience pregnancy discrimination, their experiences and what they might choose to do about discriminatory treatment.
This project therefore has three key aims. The first is to identify the demographic characteristics of women who experience pregnancy discrimination in Victoria. The second is to identify how pregnancy discrimination manifests itself at work and how those Victorian women who are exposed to pregnancy discrimination experience and respond to it. The third aim is to examine whether the manifestations of pregnancy discrimination identified in the data are reflected in cases determined by courts and tribunals.
The project uses legal and empirical research methods to collect data about the nature of pregnancy discrimination in Victorian workplaces. Data is drawn from three sources: literature about the prevalence of pregnancy discrimination in Victorian organisations; decided cases; and relevant de-identified data from JobWatch drawn from records of telephone calls to its advice line.
- Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace: A Snapshot of the Experience of Women in Victoria, Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand national conference, 3 February 2021.
- Why are so few pregnancy employment discrimination claims litigated? Rethinking Rights and Protections Available to Pregnant Workers under Labour Law, Labour Law Research Network conference, 28 June 2021.
- Reproducing Disadvantage? Re-thinking Labour Law’s Response to Pregnancy and Work, Australian Labour Law Association National Conference, 11-12 November 2022.
- Adriana Orifici, Dominique Allen, ‘Expecting More: Rethinking the Rights and Protections Available to Pregnant Workers under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)’ (2022) 50(4) Federal Law Review 504–526.
- Dominique Allen, Adriana Orifici, ‘Marginalised, ignored and dismissed: Why it’s necessary to strengthen the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to protect pregnant women’ Law Institute Journal (forthcoming, 2023).
A report outlining the project's key findings was launched by the Victorian Attorney-General, the Hon Jaclyn Symes, on 7 September 2022. Photos of the event can be seen below.
- '‘I was trapped’: pregnancy discrimination in Victoria', Broad Agenda, 23 September 2022
- 'Complex to navigate, hard to enforce: Why pregnancy discrimination at work continues'