As with the US’s Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Australian Fair Work Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a pregnant employee. The Fair Work Act goes further – it provides penalties for violations of up to $51,000 for a corporation and $10,200 for an individual.
The Australian government plans to go further still to protect pregnant women in the workplace given recent reports of employers failing to accommodate the needs of pregnant women. Some employers in the retail industry have allegedly refused to permit extra bathroom breaks to pregnant employees, and, in fact, one pregnant cashier was refused a break to use the rest room and soiled her pants. Another pregnant employee whose job required the pushing of 400 kilo trolleys was refused a transfer to lighter duties.
The proposed laws will seek to require employers to transfer pregnant employees to a so-called “safe job” for their “risk period,” irrespective of length of tenure. If no “safe job” is available, the employee will be entitled to unpaid leave if she has 12 months’ tenure service.