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What better timing than International Women’s Day to empower women who know they are pregnant when applying for a job. Today, the NSW Parliament has repealed a law that allowed NSW employers to fire or refuse to hire women who knew they were pregnant when applying for a job.
The reform brings New South Wales in line with other states and territories, as well as Commonwealth law.
Senior HR Manager at Employsure, Jess Van Der Walt, welcomes the change on such a significant day: “Today is a momentous day, not just for being International Woman’s Day, we are taking the right steps forward with this change for women. We already know that women are still facing barriers in employment, so it is a relief that the NSW Government has moved to remove these clauses.”
Previous to this, two subsections in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 allowed employers to sack or refuse to hire a woman who knew or ought to have known she was pregnant when applying for a job.
The changes were due according to Ms Van Der Walt, “It is about time. It’s totally unacceptable that a woman could be overlooked for a role or dismissed from a new position once it becomes apparent she is pregnant.”
Women facing sex discrimination in the private sector can make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984. However, the Commonwealth Act does not apply to NSW public sector agencies. These amendments close that loophole and better protect women who are seeking employment, or who are currently employed, in the public sector.
Ms Van Der Walt said the changes are fundamental to the independence of women. “Fair access to employment is vital for the social and financial independence of women,” she said. While employers need to plan and be prepared for staff who need to take maternity leave, this change gives companies the chance to really showcase their agility. Showing that they accommodate family commitments and ultimately value and support their staff will lead to higher staff retention, elevated workplace culture and increased productivity.
It’s time to provide training for your managers on how to recognise discrimination if it takes place within their team, and how to suitably handle a situation to prevent it from reoccurring, “change starts at the top.”
Employers should be informed about their rights and obligations surrounding discrimination and maternity leave entitlements. You can access free advice from Employsure on Maternity and Parental Leave.