Pregnant women and new parents in Australia are still facing discrimination in the workplace, with many missing out on career opportunities and being denied flexible working options, a new study has found.
A University of South Australia study surveyed more than 550 women and new caregivers about their experience of working while pregnant or as a new parent.
The results show that despite being outlawed more than 20 years ago, this form of workplace discrimination is still common in Australia, University of South Australia research fellow and report lead Dr Rachael Potter said.
“The results we have collected so far are concerning,” Potter said.
“Our study not only highlights existing discrimination faced by pregnant women and new parents returning to work, but also offers valuable insights into the areas that require improvement.”
According to the study, more than 60 percent of new mothers returning to work said that their opinions are often ignored, that they are excluded in the workplace, and are given unmanageable workloads.
A quarter of the women surveyed said that their workplace did not provide adequate breastfeeding facilities, while almost one in five were denied requests to work from home or to work flexibly.
Almost a third of the pregnant women said they were given no information about their upcoming leave entitlements, despite this being a legal requirement, while just under a quarter said they felt like they needed to hide their pregnant belly in the office.
“Less common but just as shocking were reports from some women who were made redundant, their contracts not renewed, and some who were denied toilet breaks when pregnant and not granted leave for medical appointments,” Potter said.
Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said their tasks or job was altered against their will while they were on leave, while 13 percent eventually resigned due to how they were treated at work.
The women surveyed for the study described being bullied and ostracised in the office while pregnant or upon returning to work as a new parent.
“I was told I wouldn’t want to return to work as I would be ‘clucky’,” one respondent said.
“My career was severely impacted by my pregnancy, and I was forced to give up my team leader role.”
“I was told my position was no longer available and that I would move to a different store which required one-hour travel time each way,” another respondent said.
The study is the first national review of pregnant women and working parents in nearly 10 years, and Potter is now looking for more people to take part.
“The prime objective of this study is to identify where the issues are and use the evidence to improve work practices, ideally through stricter government policies and legislation,” Potter said.
It comes on the back of a study in 2020 which found that more than a third of all IT workers have faced some form of discrimination in the workplace, with unfair treatment surrounding age topping the list.
That study found that 38 percent of young people aged 18 to 24 years old faced age discrimination in the workplace, while more than 20 percent of those aged over 55 years old did.