Pregnancy Bill will help employers with HRM: Govt

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Pregnancy Bill will help employers with HRM: Govt

Prospective employers will no longer be able to ask if a woman is pregnant, or considering pregnancy, during a job interview under new laws introduced into federal Parliament yesterday.

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Prospective employers will no longer be able to ask if a woman is pregnant, or considering pregnancy, during a job interview under new laws introduced into federal Parliament yesterday.

The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Pregnancy and Work) Bill 2002 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.

The Bill, which addresses some concerns raised in the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission's 1999 Pregnant and Productive report (see 71/2001), was initially introduced in September last year, but lapsed when Parliament was prorogued for the 10 November election.

In her second reading speech, parliamentary secretary for health Trish Worth said amending the Act means women could no longer be asked questions that would not be asked of male applicants.

'Because it is unlawful to refuse to employ a woman because she is pregnant, it is accordingly unlawful to ask a woman in a job interview whether she is pregnant,' she said.

'It is important to clarify that such questions are unlawful, as they marginalise women, and may be detrimental to their performance in job interviews and their likelihood of success.'

Worth said not only would the amendments clarify employers' legal obligations, but they would also greatly assist them in managing their human resources.

While the Bill does not expand the operation of the Act, she said it greatly improves, simplifies and clarifies important provisions of the Act. Apart from the workplace, it also applies to women seeking rental accommodation, purchasing goods or services, or applying for a bank loan.

She said the Bill was prepared in consultation with HREOC, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and would have little - 'if any' - financial impact.

The Act could only go so far, Worth said - the rest was up to employers and employees to work cooperatively to find workplace solutions to the issues.

'Communication and consultation can go a long way to ensuring that non-discriminatory arrangements are developed between employers and employees

 

 
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