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Women sacked for being pregnant

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Article from The Advertiser, Wednesday, June 11 2008. Page 5.

By: LAURA ANDERSON, POLITICAL REPORTER CANBERRA

SOUTH Australian employers are sacking or reducing the hours of pregnant female workers, it has been claimed.

In a submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into paid parental leave, SA Equal Opportunity Commissioner Linda Matthews has warned that some businesses are still not grasping the concept of sex discrimination.

"We have experience of employers signalling to women when they become aware of their pregnancy that they are keen to move them on and are certainly unwilling to provide flexible options for return to work and subsequent child care,'' she says.

Under the SA Equal Opportunity Act it is illegal to discriminate against a woman on the grounds of pregnancy.

In her submission, Ms Matthews cites examples where women have been sacked, missed out on promotion or had their hours reduced.

Details of the cases have not been publicly revealed before, as the cases were settled confidentially.  They include:

A WOMAN who was not provided with further work as a casual administrative assistant when she told her employer she was pregnant;

ANOTHER woman, who was promoted to management, but then demoted when she announced she was pregnant;

A PREGNANT woman told not to bother coming back to work after taking time off to manage morning sickness.

The submission says fathers also encounter discrimination if they choose to take paternity leave, with one man criticised and ridiculed by his colleagues.

Ms Matthews says while she supports paid maternity leave, the scheme has to be federally - and not employer - funded.

An employer-funded scheme would provide an incentive for employers not to employ women of child-bearing age and could result in a rise in sex discrimination cases, Ms Matthews says in her submission.

Ms Matthews told The Advertiser the commission received about 10 to 20 complaints about pregnancy discrimination every year - but most cases were unreported.

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