Welcoming a new baby into the world should be an exhilarating, beautiful, deeply personal experience.
But according to a groundbreaking new report, for many working mums pregnancy marks a time of belittlement, humiliation and dismissal.
The survey of 2,000 women by the Australian Human Rights Commission has found that 49 per cent of Australian mothers have experienced discrimination at work during pregnancy, during parental leave or on return to work.
That’s one in two working mothers in Australia.
One. In. Two.
The deeply disturbing findings don’t stop there, either: the study found that the vast majority of these women (84 per cent) experienced negative impacts on their mental health — such as stress and lack of confidence — as well as on their physical health, families, finances and career opportunities.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said women had shared horrifying personal stories of their experiences with her, including details of nervous breakdowns and even stress-related miscarriages.
“One pregnant woman was denied toilet breaks until she wet herself at the cash register where she was working,” Commissioner Broderick said in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday.
“In one horrifying account, we met a woman who was told she would only be able to keep her job if she had a termination,” she said.
“It was not uncommon to find that women were made to breastfeed or express milk in a toilet.”
She added that women reported they “felt they had no choice but to change their entire careers” as a result of the discrimination.
Indeed, the report revealed that almost one-third (32 per cent) of all mothers who were discriminated against went to look for another job or resigned — while almost one in five working mums (18 per cent) lost their job before or after having a baby.
The minister assisting the prime minister for women, Senator Michaelia Cash, said, “Such discrimination is unacceptable.”