Pregnancy Discrimination

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What is pregnancy discrimination?

The Discrimination Act 1991 makes it unlawful to treat you unfavourably because you are pregnant, because you plan to be pregnant, or because you could become pregnant.

Pregnancy discrimination is against the law in many areas of public life, including:

  • At work (including when you are applying for a job), even if you are a volunteer, apprentice, casual or on contract
  • In education (at school, CIT or university)
  • When you are accessing public places (like entering a building or catching a taxi)
  • When you are accessing goods, services or facilities (such as seeking medical treatment, applying for a loan or using the pool)
  • When you are accessing accommodation (like renting a property or a room)
  • When you are joining a club or using its facilities

Example 1: “When I told my boss I was pregnant, she said that I could only keep working until my uniform stopped fitting me.”
Example 2 :“My swimming coach told me I have to stop training until after I have had the baby.”
Example 3: “The employment agency told me they can’t help me because my pregnancy is showing now, so nobody will employ me.”
It is also against the law for someone to ask if you are pregnant, or if you may become pregnant, if they are planning to use this information to discriminate against you.
Example 4: “The real estate agent asked me if I planned to have a baby, because the landlord wouldn’t rent his apartment to an unmarried mother.”

Protection also extends to ‘indirect’ discrimination. This is where a requirement or rule that appears to be the same for everybody has the effect of disadvantaging you because you are pregnant.
If the requirement is reasonable in the circumstances it may be lawful, but otherwise it may be indirect discrimination.
Example 5: “My back and feet hurt from standing up all day, but the boss told me I can’t have a chair behind the counter because customers will think I am lazy, even though I’m pregnant.”

If you think you might have been discriminated against and you’d like more information, you can call the ACT Human Rights Commission to talk about your rights.

What is not discrimination?

There are some situations in which it is not unlawful to discriminate on the ground of pregnancy. These include when something is done to comply with an ACT law. It is not discrimination against men to give women special rights or privileges in relation to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. This could include access to paid leave from work, or special facilities, such as a designated breastfeeding area.

It is also not discrimination to take special measures to meet the needs of pregnant women, or to ensure that pregnant women have equal opportunities with other people, as long as the measures are reasonable. An example might be running special yoga sessions for pregnant women.