Parents continue to be discriminated against in the Australian workplace, a report says, with one in two mothers treated unfairly as they manage pregnancy, maternity leave and returning to work.
A new report by the Australian Human Rights Commission says the discrimination can have devastating health and economic impacts on families and also limits business productivity.
The Australia-wide inquiry found women at all levels of employment faced mistreatment including reduced promotion opportunities and in some cases job losses, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said.
“It goes from the most junior worker … right through to a law firm partner,” Ms Broderick told ABC radio on Friday.
Little has changed in the past 15 years with 49 per cent of mothers and 27 per cent of fathers and partners surveyed found to have experienced discrimination, she said.
In one of 300 submissions received by the inquiry, a woman explained her experience during pregnancy, maternity leave and her return to work.
“I felt powerless, vulnerable and fearful about my job security and couldn’t understand why I was being treated so badly,” she said.
In one instance an expectant mother was asked by her workplace superior if she had considered having an abortion so she could keep working.
The inquiry came up with recommendations which hope to boost knowledge and implementation of “already strong” legal obligations in the workplace.
“There are a number of pieces of law in this area and it can be confusing,” Ms Broderick said.