Almost one in five working mums lost their job before or after having a baby, a report says.
Half of Australia’s working mothers report discrimination during pregnancy, parental leave or when returning to work.
Pregnant workers say they have been sacked, threatened with sacking or didn’t have their contract renewed, according to an Australian Human Rights Commission report.
The report found 18 per cent of mothers had been made redundant, dismissed, had their job restructured or not had their contract renewed, either during their pregnancy, when requesting or taking parental leave or when they returned to work.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said women had their salaries cut and missed out on training, professional development and promotional opportunities.
“The most common types of discrimination … included negative comments about breastfeeding or working part-time or flexibly and being denied requests to work flexibly,” Ms Broderick said on Monday.
The vast majority of mothers who copped discrimination – 84 per cent – said it had a negative impact on them.
Victorian Legal Aid spokeswoman Melanie Schleiger said laws should be strengthened to protect mothers’ rights in the workplace.
Ms Schleiger said the current laws weren’t working, with only 154 women making complaints about pregnancy discrimination to the commission in 2012/13.
“Pregnant women are often reluctant to take on the stress and uncertainty of legal action when they are busy dealing with so many other things as they prepare for the birth of their child,” she said.
“Other reasons why women may be hesitant to come forward and make a complaint include concern about the impact on their professional reputation and a lack of awareness of their legal rights and options.”
The commission’s report also found one quarter of fathers experienced discrimination when requesting or during parental leave and on return to work.
Half of those reported discrimination on pay, conditions and duties.
“The data reflects what I have heard about negative attitudes towards men taking parental leave or working flexibly to care for their children,” Ms Broderick said.