Pregnancy discrimination

Below are a list of questions that are commonly asked:

  1. What is pregnancy or potential pregnancy discrimination?
  2. When is pregnancy or potential pregnancy discrimination contrary to the law?
  3. As a USQ employee, am I protected against pregnancy discrimination by University policies and procedures?
  4. When applying for employment with USQ, can questions be asked in relation to pregnancy or potential pregnancy at any time during the recruitment process?
  5. As an employee of USQ, do I have access to maternity leave?
  6. Can maternity leave commence before birth?
  7. How much notice am I required to provide?
  8. Am I obligated to provide a medical certificate?
  9. Am I entitled to personal leave during or after pregnancy?
  10. Can I be excluded from training and development opportunities?
  11. During my pregnancy, can I work from home?
  12. Can I be transferred to another position?
  13. Can I return to work on a fractional basis?
  14. Can I request flexible work arrangements? 
  15. Will I return to my substantive position after taking leave? 
  16. When I return to work what facilities are available?
  17. Can I be dismissed or retrenched during or after my pregnancy?
  18. How are complaints and grievances managed?

1.  What is pregnancy or potential pregnancy discrimination? 

Under the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) (Cth) pregnancy discrimination refers to a time when a women is carrying a foetus as well as the physical characteristics of pregnancy such as having a large abdomen, tiredness and morning sickness.  In addition, discrimination can also occur based on a previous pregnancy, for example terminating a pregnancy or for taking maternity leave.  Discrimination on the basis of potential pregnancy refers to women being capable of having children; in situations where a woman has expressed a desire to have children or when a woman is likely or is perceived to be likely to become pregnant.

Pregnancy or potential pregnancy discrimination occurs in both a direct and indirect manner.  Direct discrimination occurs when a woman is directly treated less favourably because she is pregnant or has the potential to become pregnant.  Indirect discrimination occurs when there is a requirement, condition or practice which disadvantages pregnant or potentially pregnant women.  However discrimination will not occur if the requirement, condition or practice is reasonable in the circumstances.

2.  When is pregnancy or potential pregnancy discrimination contrary to the law?

Pregnancy or potential pregnancy discrimination occurs in both a direct and indirect manner.  Direct discrimination occurs when a woman is directly treated less favourably because she is pregnant or has the potential to become pregnant.  Indirect discrimination occurs when there is a requirement, condition or practice which disadvantages pregnant or potentially pregnant women.  However discrimination will not occur if the requirement, condition or practice is reasonable in the circumstances.

3.  As an employee of USQ, am I protected against pregnancy discrimination by University policies and procedures? 

HR policy and procedure Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment states that the University is actively committed to protecting the rights of both students and employees to achieve their full potential in an environment which values and affirms diversity and is free from discrimination, harassment, victimisation and vilification.  The policy prohibits discrimination on the following attributes: sex, relationship or parental status, race, religious belief or activity, political belief or activity, impairment, trade union activity, lawful sexual activity, pregnancy, breastfeeding needs, family responsibilities, gender identity, sexuality, age, or an association with, or relation to, a person identified on the basis of any of these attributes. The University will ensure that it meets legislative requirements through the implementation of equitable workplace practices.

4.  When applying for employment with USQ, can questions be asked in relation to pregnancy or potential pregnancy at any time during the recruitment process? 

During the recruitment process, pregnant or potentially pregnant women must be treated the same as any other potential employee. Employers must select, on merit, the most qualified applicant, regardless of pregnancy or potential pregnancy.  Asking female applicants of their plans to have children, then eliminating those who do from the recruitment process is an example of direct discrimination.  However,  if a pregnant applicant is genuinely unable to perform job requirements; for example due to a medical condition or a project which requires completion within a specific time frame or if there are occupational health and safety issues that can not be resolved it is not discriminatory to refuse a person employment.

5.  As an employee of USQ, do I have access to maternity leave? 

An employee with 12 months continuous service who becomes pregnant is entitled to 52 weeks leave with 14 weeks being paid at the normal salary.  In addition, eligible employees may also access a further six weeks of paid primary care-giver's and an additional six weeks leave which may be banked and taken up to the child's second birthday.  Eligible employees will have access to a total of 26 weeks paid leave.  Further information is available in the Leave of Absence policy and procedure.

The University of Southern Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2010-2013 stipulates that an employee who becomes pregnant and does not have 12 months continuous service is entitled to a maximum of 26 weeks maternity leave without salary.  Any accrued annual leave may be taken during the period of absence. 

6.  Can maternity leave commence before birth?

Maternity leave may begin up to 20 weeks prior to the expected date of birth, or earlier where certified by a medical practitioner.  Otherwise paid maternity leave will commence from the date of birth of the child and will be continuous for a 14 week period.  Once leave has commenced, an employee is required to remain absent for a period of at least 6 weeks after the actual date of birth.

7.  How much notice am I required to provide?

An employee must provide 10 weeks written notice to their Supervisor stating the expected date of birth.  All leave applications are to be submitted 4 weeks prior to prior to the start of leave.  Written notice of intention to return to work must be given 4 weeks prior to the end of their parental leave.  Further information is available in the Leave of Absence policy and procedure.

8.  Am I obligated to provide a medical certificate? 

The USQ Human Resources policies and procedures indicates that a medical certificate is required indicating the expected date of birth (refer to the Leave of Absence policy and procedure).

9.  Am I entitled to personal leave during or after pregnancy?

An employee on approved parental leave may take annual or long service leave in lieu of unpaid elements of parental leave.  However, an employee absent on paid or unpaid parental leave is not entitled to paid personal leave.  Where an employee is on paid maternity leave, personal leave will not be granted for normal pregnancy. However personal leave may be granted by the Executive Director, Human Resources after medical advice has been considered with respect to uncharacteristic conditions associated with the pregnancy.

10.  Can I be excluded from training and development opportunities? 

Refusing to train or provide development opportunities to a pregnant employee where training is available to other comparable employees is an example of direct discrimination.  Refusing to train or provide development opportunities to employees is not a practice the University endorses.

11.  During my pregnancy, can I work from home?

Approval to work from home may be entered into by mutual agreement between the University and the employee, and must be approved by the appropriate Category 3 Delegate.  Approval to work from home may be granted if the employee's job characteristics are suitable for work at home; the work carried out does not contravene any local or state government regulations; the appropriate Category 4 Delegate has undertaken a risk assessment and is satisfied that appropriate control measures are in place to ensure the work area is safe; suitable equipment has been provided by the University or the employee; hours of work, breaks and leave arrangements have been agreed where possible; reporting and performance management processes have been arranged; and the employee has sufficient information, experience and training to undertake work safely and with a minimum of assistance and direction (refer to Working from Home Arrangements). 

12.  Can I be transferred to another position?

Transferring a pregnant employee to a position of lower status, even if the salary remains the same is another example of direct discrimination.  However, where there are medical issues associated with the pregnancy or there are legitimate occupational health and safety concerns which can not be resolved, it may be necessary for employees to be transferred (temporarily) to another position.  Where an employee has their position altered because of pregnancy, benefits should remain the same although salary may alter if hours have decreased through mutual agreement.

13.  Can I return to work on a fractional basis?

The University of Southern Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2010-2013 stipulates that an employee may return to work after parental leave on either a full-time or fractional basis, subject to the operational needs of the workplace and the mutual agreement of the delegated officer and the employee.  Where an employee returns on a fractional basis, salary and entitlements will be adjusted accordingly.  Where granted, fractional employment is limited a maximum period of two years from the return to work date by mutual agreement.

14. Can I request flexible work arrangements?

Parents returning to the workforce following pregnancy or adoption are entitled to request flexible working arrangements. Employees seeking this arrangement are required to submit a Flexible Work Arrangements form (DOC 58kb) to their supervisor. These arrangements are subject to the operational needs of the workplace, the mutual agreement between the employee, their supervisor and the relevant approving delegate, and may be refused on reasonable business grounds.

15.  Will I return to my substantive position after taking leave?   

The Sex Discrimination Act (1984) (Cth) states that an employee is generally entitled to return to the position they held prior to commencing leave.  This provision is reflected in the University of Southern Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2010-2013 which stipulates that an employee returning to work is entitled to be placed in the position they held prior to leave commencing and at the same classification and salary level.  Furthermore, where significant changes have occurred to the roles and duties of their position during leave, the employee will be consulted prior to the implementation of changes.

16.  When I return to work what facilities are available?

USQ Toowoomba

The USQ Toowoomba Parenting Room is located in R131 and is equipped with comfortable seating and change facilities. Microwaves and hyrdoboil ware currently available in the Learning Commons area. Additional baby change facilities are also located ata number of different locations across campus within the male, female and unisex toilets.

The Mirambeena Children's Centre, located at USQ Toowooomba, is a community child care centre, managed by Mirambeen Children's Centre Association Inc (Toowoomba), a non-profit organisation whose members are the parents of children enrolled at the Centre, and University representatives. The Management Committee of the Association consists of parents and representatives from the Faculty of Education at USQ and can be contacted on +61 7 4630 1989.

The Student Guild, with the support of the University, is offering an Adjunct Childcare Service for students and employees attending lectures at USQ Toowoomba with students and employees attending lectures having first priority. The Tiny Tots Creche is located at the Clive Berghofer Recreation Centre and operates Mondays to Thursdays from 8.45am to 2.30pm and Fridays from 8.45am to 1.00pm. For more information contact our KAP Coordinator, Clive Berghofer Recreation Centre on +61 7 4631 1588.

USQ Springfield

The USQ Springfield Parenting Room is located on Level 4 of A Block for student and staff use. A baby change table is available in the disabled access toilets on Level 1 and Level 4. The parenting room contains a table, chairs, lounge chairs and a computer for student use. Parents can use the Level 4 ktichenette at all times to access facilities such as a sink, fridge, microwave and hydroboil.

USQ Fraser Coast

The USQ Fraser Coast parenting facilities are available for student and staff use. A feeding room is located in A135, with changing facilities available in the disabled access toilet in A Block. Parents have access to the Student Kitchen area which includes a fridge, sink, microvewave and hydroboil.

On-campus employees who would prefer to express or breastfeed in their office or work space are encouraged to do so, after initial consultation with their supervisor, and with appropriate sensitivity to the needs of work colleagues.

17.  Can I be dismissed or retrenched during or after my pregnancy?

Under the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) (Cth) an employer cannot dismiss or retrench an employee because of pregnancy or potential pregnancy, even if this reason is only one of the reasons for the dismissal.  However, an employer may dismiss or retrench an employee if the decision is based on reasons other than pregnancy for example, genuine economic or operational reasons, inadequate work performance or serious or wilful misconduct.

18.  How are complaints and grievances managed?

In accordance with the Human Resources policy and procedure Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Resolution for Employees, a USQ employee who considers they have been discriminated against because they are pregnant should follow the following stages: 

  • Stage 1- speak to a Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officer

  • Stage 2 - request that the matter be dealt with through a neutral third party mediation process organised by the Staff Equity and Diversity Office

  • Stage 3 - make an formal complaint in writing to Human Resources

All discussions are held in confidence and the complainant may, if they choose to, be accompanied by a nominated representative during the mediation process   

For further information, contact the Equity and Diversity Office.