Is discrimination in the workplace keeping you from having another baby?

Mar 17, 2015 at 12:30 a.m. ET

Is bullying in the workplace stopping you from having another baby? If yes, you're not the only one, with new mums saying they've put off having a second child out of fear of being discriminated against in the workplace.

According to a report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in two Australian women face discrimination in the workplace because of parenting and pregnancy obligations.

But something equally worrying seems to be emerging from the workplace, with more bullying complaints coming from women who are either expecting their second child or who already have two or more children.

Victorian equal opportunity and human rights commissioner, Kate Jenkins, says she has noticed a pattern emerging: Women returning to the workplace after their second child often face discrimination, bullying and being left out.

She says that while first-time mothers often return to their jobs, perhaps into part-time roles, it's when the second child comes that they are scrutinised about their level of commitment to both their roles at work and at home.

"You can't win either way," said Jenkins, according to "If you want to return part-time you get lesser work. If you want to return to full-time people question whether you are really a committed mother and none of these things happen to men who have children."

According to the Fair Work Australia Ombudsman, employees are entitled to their pre-parental leave position upon returning to work, and if that role is no longer available, another available position which they are qualified for must be made available.

And while regulations are in place to ensure equal opportunity for mums returning to the workplace and to curtail discriminatory behaviour, mothers have reportedly been left behind at work because of their family commitments.

"Meetings of importance were scheduled on the days I was not there and then I was harassed for not attending, even though my children had been sick," mum Marie told News Ltd.

"My loyalties were questioned and in the end I requested a voluntary redundancy and received it, because I had no intent of ever returning to that place."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics warned in their report on Pregnancy and Work Transitions that businesses who fail to find flexible work arrangements for women are missing out on their untapped potential. Because, while women's social situations may change, their work ethic and productivity isn't compromised as a result.

"Research has found that women employed in highly flexible roles are more productive than the rest of the working population," the report says. "Organisations that fail to provide flexible arrangements may be missing out on the opportunity to harness the skills, experience, and productivity of women who need to balance work and family responsibilities."

If you find yourself in a similar situation, be sure to take the following steps:

  • Keep a diary of the events happening at work.
  • Do some research and find out if your workplace has an anti-bullying policy.
  • Talk to someone if you need support, or contact support services or your union for further assistance.
  • Take the issue up with someone at work, either the HR department or the health and safety representative.
  • Make a formal complaint.

Have you been discriminated against following the birth of a child? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below.

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