Pregnancy discrimination at work in Victoria

Pregnancy discrimination at work in Victoria: A snapshot

Summary

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.

Researchers

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 Most discrimination claims that are lodged are settled confidentially or withdrawn, and the equal opportunity commissions (which investigate claims) do not publish any data about the nature of the pregnancy discrimination complaints they receive.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.

Methodology

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.