ACT outlaws potential pregnancy discrimination

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ACT outlaws potential pregnancy discrimination

Discrimination on the basis of potential pregnancy has now been outlawed in the Australian Capital Territory, with the Legislative Assembly there adopting one of the key recommendations of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's 'Pregnant and Productive' report.

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Discrimination on the basis of potential pregnancy has now been outlawed in the Australian Capital Territory, with the Legislative Assembly there adopting one of the key recommendations of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's 'Pregnant and Productive' report.

The seminal report, released by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Susan Halliday in 1999, made a number of recommendations around eliminating discrimination on the grounds of potential pregnancy.

The Discrimination Amendment Bill 2002, introduced by the Shadow Minister for Women's Issues, Helen Cross, became law from Friday. It mirrors the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 by inserting a new section into the Act explaining the concept of potential pregnancy and means it will now be illegal to discriminate against a woman who:

  • Is or may be capable of bearing children;
  • Has expressed a desire to become pregnant;
  • Is likely, or is perceived as being likely, to become pregnant.

The ACT Act now covers existing pregnancy, breast feeding and potential pregnancy as grounds for discrimination.

In her speech introducing the Bill, Cross said when she first raised the need for the legislation, it was deemed unnecessary as there was a perception the law 'was already good enough on this front'. She said further discussions had assured her references to the 'general concept' of pregnancy 'lacked both strength and clarity'.

Cross said official discrimination complaints in Canberra had been rising, with pregnancy discrimination complaints doubling each year for the past two years, a trend she called 'serious and disturbing'. She said this was especially so given that larger numbers of women had experienced discrimination, but shrugged their shoulders and got on with it, for fear of being branded troublemakers.

Until the day she left her position, former federal Commissioner Halliday expressed her disappointment with the Government for not implementing all of the recommendations of her report (see 54/2000 and 71/2001).

The Federal Government has still not introduced paid maternity leave - the issue current Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward is pursuing (see 102/2002).

 

 
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