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Supporting pregnant and breastfeeding women in the workplace.

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Jenny Macklin MP Robert McClelland MP Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister Shadow Attorney General for Employment, Education, Training & Science Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations


Labor is pushing for better protection for pregnant and breastfeeding women from discrimination by proposing amendments to the Howard Government’s woefully inadequate Sex Discrimination Amendment (Pregnancy and Work) Bill.

Complaints of pregnancy-related discrimination to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission doubled last year, highlighting the need for stronger laws to protect pregnant and breastfeeding women from unacceptable treatment.

In her 1999 report, Pregnant and Productive: It’s a right not a privilege to work while pregnant, the then Sex Discrimination Commissioner Susan Halliday argued the need for changes to the law.

It has taken the Howard Government more than two years to respond to the report, coming up with an inadequate Bill of half-measures that does not do enough to improve the situation of women the subject of discrimination.

Labor believes that there is no halfway when it comes to protecting people from workplace discrimination. A workplace is either free of discrimination or it’s not.

The Howard Government’s Bill ignores most of the legislative changes recommended by HREOC and shows that the Howard Government is willing to settle for half measures.

Labor’s amendments will strengthen the law to protect women from discrimination while they cope with pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Labor calls on Attorney-General Daryl Williams to support them.

Labor is offering the Howard Government a chance to get serious about the workplace problems faced by pregnant and breastfeeding women.

For further information:

Joanna Brent 02 6277 4045; 0408 473 278 (Macklin’s office) Jonathan Kirkwood 0425 231 690 (McClelland’s office)

11 February 2003 (A list of Labor’s amendments is attached.)

Labor’s amendments to the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Pregnancy and Work) Bill

Labor’s proposals will enhance the rights of potentially pregnant, pregnant and breastfeeding women by:

1. empowering the Attorney-General to publish enforceable standards in relation to pregnancy and potential pregnancy;

2. ensuring unpaid workers are covered by the Sex Discrimination Act;

3. removing the exemption for employment by an instrumentality of a state from the Sex Discrimination Act;

4. removing the exemption for educational institutions established for religious purposes in relation to pregnancy and potential pregnancy;

5. allowing punitive damages to be awarded;

6. specifically including breastfeeding as grounds for unlawful discrimination;

7. allowing the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to refer discriminatory awards or agreements to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission without the requirement to receive a written complaint;

8. clarifying that a complaint about a discriminatory advertisement may be made by any person;

9. clarifying that the asking of questions to elicit information about whether and when a woman intends to become pregnant and/or her intentions in relation to meeting her current or pending family responsibilities is unlawful;

10. clarifying that it is unlawful to discriminate in medical examinations of pregnant women during the recruitment process;

11. extending the anti-discrimination provisions to employees who are in the process of adopting a child.