Returning to work: managing childcare and parental flexibility

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Two reports have revealed the barriers women face returning to work after pregnancy, and how even in the public service, managers are breaching sex discrimination laws.

Helping new parents to return to work is now recognised as an important element in workforce sustainability — public or private. But according to two new reports, few managers are getting it right and only half manage to even keep within the law.

Sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has documented that discrimination against working parents, pregnancy and returning to work in a report titled Supporting Working Parents released on Friday. She told The Mandarin that there were some good practices coming out of the public service, such as job share registers and parenting rooms, but there were just as many breaches of sex discrimination laws in government departments and agencies as the private sector.

“You’d think in a public sector workplace, with flexibility and family-friendly practices that have been well documented [there would be less discrimination]. You’d think it wouldn’t be as high, but we didn’t find that,” Broderick said.

Research for the national review, conducted by Roy Morgan, found one in two mothers experienced discrimination during pregnancy or returning to work, regardless of sector. More than a quarter of fathers and partners also experienced discrimination. Breaches include discrimination in safety issues, leave, loss of career advancement opportunities, threats of redundancy and negative attitudes.

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