The profound joy and exuberance that many working women look forward to into motherhood can sometimes be clouded with anxiety, especially if they are not sure of their employee rights. This is why it is important that you know the rights you are entitled to.
In Australia, employees are protected under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, Fair Work Act, and other state and territorial laws. All these laws have provisions cover the whole period of a woman’s pregnancy up until she goes back to work. It is even unlawful for an employer to ask a prospective employee during the hiring period if she is pregnant or has plans to get pregnant, and for her to receive unjust treatment for whatever her answer will be.
Additionally, women are protected from workplace discrimination due to her pregnancy, which are the following: demotion, dismissal, be treated unfairly or differently, lessened working hours, given less important work, not lined up for promotion or for training.
For companies like Vinomofo.com, an online wine retailer company from Melbourne, the value of work-life balance, especially for those raising children, is an important part of their policies. They have special milestones for expecting parents before and after the baby’s birth, and even expecting fathers are given flexible hours to attend their parenting roles, even prior to baby’s birth. This is an ideal example of a company respecting the rights of its pregnant and parent employees. Here are three important employee rights that mothers definitely should know about.
Employees can avail parental leaves when she gives birth; in the case that the employee is male, the spouse or partner gives birth; or when the employee adopts a child aging below sixteen years. Employees are entitled to twelve months of unpaid parental leave and also may file for an additional 12 more months. It is, however, important to note that the duration of an employee in the company, which in general should be at least twelve months, is among the considerations of the entitlement for the leave.
An employee can get his or her Parental Leave Pay from both the employer Paid Parental Leave and from the Australian Government. For an employee who is the child’s primary caregiver is entitled to a pay worth eighteen weeks, at the minimum wage rate. The pay may be given before, after, or any time during the leave.
A Special Maternity Leave may also be availed by a pregnant employee suffering from a pregnancy-related sickness or injury, or if she goes through a miscarriage, pregnancy termination, or stillbirth after twelve weeks of pregnancy. For pregnancy-related illness, the employee may come back to work when the illness ends or after birth, whichever will come first. For the latter reason for Special Maternity Leave, the employee may come back to work until she is deemed fit to work.
Safe job or no safe job leave
All employees, including casuals and those not eligible for unpaid paternity leave, are entitled to move to a safe job if their current jobs are dangerous or unsafe to their pregnancy. The same pay rate, working hours, and other entitlements in her previous job will be applied on to her safe job. An arrangement may be made between the employee and employer regarding the number of working hours the employee will have. The employee may retain her safe job until she is fit enough to go back to her previous job or after she gives birth.
If there are no safe jobs available in the company, the employee is entitled to a no safe job leave. The leave is paid when the employee is entitled to unpaid parental leave. The pay is given at the base rate and based on ordinary working hours for full-time and part-time employees. The same thing goes for casual employees, although the basis for the working hours will be on their regular working period. Additionally, employees who are not entitled to unpaid parental leave may still take on unpaid no safe job leave.
All states in Australia have separate legislations on the protection of breastfeeding women at work. In Queensland, workplaces must ensure that they do not discriminate against people on the basis of parental status, family responsibilities or breastfeeding status, under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld). The Federal Sex Discrimination 1984 protects also protects these rights in the whole of Australia.
The following acts may be considered discrimination, and therefore, unlawful:
- If no suitable spaces and facilities are made to cater to breastfeeding and expression of breastmilk needs in the company,
- if the lactating employee is prohibited from organizing and making breaks to facilitate breastfeeding and expression of breastmilk,
- if the employee is made to work night shifts, regardless of the availability of morning shifts, when the employee is able to facilitate breastfeeding and breast milk expression (this is considered indirect discrimination),
- if the employee is told to wean her baby first prior to resuming to her job.
Paid lactation breaks are not available to all Australian states and territories. In Queensland, however, all Queensland Health employees are entitled to a paid lactation break for every eight hours worked, regardless of the age of the child under the Queensland Government Work and Breastfeeding Policy and the Queensland Health C5 Flexible Working Arrangements Policy.
Pregnancy and motherhood are the most exciting and fulfilling experiences that most women can ever find. The experiences are glazed with both joy and pain, but women find them worthwhile. The experiences are invaluable and they would never exchange it for anything else.
About the Author
Gemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She has worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology, healthcare, family matters, and more. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur who is engaged in assisting other aspiring entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business.
Check out her company here: FindMyWorkspace