Labor moves pregnancy bill amendments

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Labor moves pregnancy bill amendments

The Federal Opposition has labelled a bill addressing discrimination against pregnant and breastfeeding women 'woefully inadequate' and says it will push on with a raft of amendments designed to improve it, despite the Bill passing unamended through the House of Representatives last night.

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The Federal Opposition has labelled a bill addressing discrimination against pregnant and breastfeeding women 'woefully inadequate' and says it will push on with a raft of amendments designed to improve it, despite the Bill passing unamended through the House of Representatives last night.
 
The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Pregnancy and Work) Bill 2002 was introduced a year ago and addresses some concerns raised in the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission's 1999 Pregnant and Productive repor).
 
Under the Bill, prospective employers would no longer be able to ask if a woman is pregnant, or considering pregnancy, during a job interview. It would also make it illegal to ask for medical information about pregnancy or potential pregnancy where that information is not being used for legitimate reasons like occupational health and safety. Finally, the Bill makes it clear that discriminating against women for breastfeeding in the workplace would be illegal under the Act.
 
In a joint statement released yesterday, Labor's deputy leader Jenny Macklin and Shadow IR Minister Robert McClelland said the Bill contained inadequate 'half-measures' and did not do enough to improve the situation of women who are the subject of discrimination.
 
The pair said the Government had shown it was willing to settle for half-measures, by ignoring most of former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Susan Halliday's recommendations.
 
Labor's amendments include:
  • empowering the Attorney-General to publish enforceable standards in relation to pregnancy and potential pregnancy;
  • ensuring unpaid workers are covered by the Sex Discrimination Act;
  • removing the exemption for employment by an instrumentality of a state from the Sex Discrimination Act;
  • removing the exemption for educational institutions established for religious purposes in relation to pregnancy and potential pregnancy;
  • allowing punitive damages to be awarded;
  • specifically including breastfeeding as grounds for unlawful discrimination;
  • 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;
  • clarifying that a complaint about a discriminatory advertisement may be made by any person;
  • 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;
  • clarifying that it is unlawful to discriminate in medical examinations of pregnant women during the recruitment process;
  • extending the anti-discrimination provisions to employees who are in the process of adopting a child.

A spokesperson for McClelland told WorkplaceInfo Labor intended to reintroduce the amendments when the Bill reached the Senate, and seek the support of minor parties there. But he said there were no details of meetings with those parties yet, saying as the legislation had been on foot for a year he did not know when it was scheduled for Senate debate.

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