I’m Pregnant and Scared I’ll lose my Job. What are my Rights?
So, you’re pregnant. A little person is growing inside you and if it weren’t for the nausea, morning sickness and indescribable tiredness, you’d be glowing. It should be a happy and amazing time, but there’s a dark cloud hanging over you – you’re worried that you’ll lose your job once you announce your pregnancy.
What are your rights and what can you do?
Thankfully, there are anti-discrimination laws, intended to protect women from this kind of treatment.
What is discrimination?
Unlawful discrimination is unfair or unequal treatment of a person or group of people based on certain characteristics. It can especially occur on the grounds of:
:: Caring responsibilities
It is also unlawful to discriminate against a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant. This is not only unlawful in employment but in other areas of public life including customer service, accommodation and education.
Discrimination in employment covers all workers in a workplace, whether they are:
:: Full-time employees
:: Part-time employees
:: Permanent employees
:: Casual employees
:: Probationary employees
:: Contractors or
Direct and indirect discrimination
Discrimination can be direct or indirect. An example of direct discrimination is being told by your boss not to deal with clients face to face so they don’t find out that you’re pregnant.
Indirect discrimination can often be unintended.
For example, all staff are directed to do mandatory commando training as a team building exercise. Anyone who doesn’t participate will lose their performance bonus payment for the quarter. You are 7 months pregnant and can’t participate on doctor’s orders. You miss out on your bonus payment.
It’s important to remember that whether the discrimination is direct or indirect, it is still unlawful.
If you become pregnant or are planning a pregnancy, you have the right to be treated the same as other workers in your workplace. You are entitled to perform your duties in the same way and work the same hours.
If there are medical reasons why this can’t happen, for example, you may work in a physically demanding role, then your duties may need to be modified or changed. This should happen only on the recommendation of a health care professional.
If I lose my job, what can I do?
If your employment is terminated because of your pregnancy, you can make a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission of South Australia (EOC).
You also need to provide a statement about what has happened to you and there are specific legal elements to be included. It’s best to see an experienced equal opportunity lawyer to assist with this.
Many complaints are settled with compensation being paid by the employer to the complainant. If the incident is more than 12 months old, the EOC may give an extension of time so that you can make a complaint.
What if I’m being set-up to lose my job?
It is unfortunate that some employers may try to avoid a pregnancy discrimination complaint by finding a different reason to terminate an employee.
For example, your job performance may suddenly be an issue, even though you’d always had excellent feedback before you announced your pregnancy. There are some things that you should do straight away:
:: Contact a lawyer for advice and guidance about how to manage the situation.
:: Keep notes of any conversation that you believe shows that you are being set-up, but ensure that you don’t breach workplace confidentiality requirements.
:: Confide in family and friends for support.
If you do lose your job and believe it was a set-up, you can still lodge a claim with the EOC in the same way, but you will need to be able to support what you are saying with as much evidence as possible.
Discrimination can be a traumatic experience. It takes a lot of physical and emotional effort to grow a baby and the last thing you need is to be worried about your job security.
You may not be able to stop the discrimination from occurring, but you can do a lot to protect your rights.
Websters Lawyers have excellent lawyers specialising in equal opportunity and discrimination law. Contact us now for a free initial consultation and speak to us about a No Win No Fee arrangement. Because usually, the sooner you act, the better off you’ll be.
This article provides general information only. For advice specific to your needs, you should consult a lawyer
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