Employers have certain obligations by law when it comes to dealing with an employee who is either pregnant or who has parental responsibilities. Employees should be aware of their rights when it comes to making requests for flexible working arrangements, as well as their rights when it comes to advising their employer of a pregnancy or returning to work after parental leave.
Working parents should also ensure that they are not being discriminated against because of their gender, pregnancy, parental responsibilities, maternity leave, request for a flexible working arrangement or some other right that is protected.
RIGHT TO REQUEST FLEXIBLE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS
Parents of children (who are school age or younger) have the right to request flexible working arrangements to assist with their parental responsibilities – provided they have completed at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer immediately before making the request. This protected right under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides working mothers with the necessary flexibility to remain in the workforce despite their family responsibilities.
Flexible working arrangements include changes in hours of work, changes in patterns of work, or changes in location of work. For example, a parent might request a later start time or earlier finish time in order to drop off or pick up kids from school.
In the event the employee’s request is denied, the employer must have reasonable business grounds to justify its refusal. For example, an employer may refuse a request because the new working arrangements would come at too greater cost to the employer, have a significant negative impact on customer service, or would result in a significant loss of efficiency or productivity.
ADVISING THE EMPLOYER OF PREGNANCY
Employees are generally entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) where the leave is associated with the birth or adoption of a child.
The entitlement to unpaid parental leave is conditional upon whether the employee has, or will have, completed at least 12 months of continuous service with the employer immediately before the expected date of birth or placement of the adopted child.
If an employee is planning on taking unpaid parental leave, the employee is required to notify the employer at least 10 weeks before the commencement of their intended leave. If required by the employer, the employee must provide evidence of the expected date of birth or date of placement This evidence may be in the form of a medical certificate.
RETURNING FROM MATERNITY LEAVE
The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides parents with a “return to work guarantee”. The guarantee provides that employees are entitled to return to their pre-parental leave position or, if that position no longer exists, the nearest available position in terms of status and pay for which they are qualified.
It is unlawful to terminate a female worker’s employment because of her pregnancy or because she is taking maternity leave. If this occurs, that employee may be eligible to make a claim for reinstatement and/or compensation.
WHAT ACTION CAN YOU TAKE IF YOU ARE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST?
If an employee feels they have been discriminated against due to their parental responsibilities seeking legal advice is recommended. There are protections in place under the Fair Work Act 2009 (cth) which ensure that no adverse action is taken against an employee due to their parental responsibilities. For example, a claim may be available for a working mother who is dismissed or made redundant because of her period of maternity leave or demoted because of her pregnancy or parental responsibilities.