This page provides an overview of:

  • the principles involved in avoiding discrimination in employment on the basis of pregnancy and potential pregnancy
  • the structures available at Flinders University to support pregnant employees.


All employees are covered by the Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the relevant State or Territory legislation, including casual, fixed-term and continuing staff (whether full-time or part-time), apprentices and trainees. These Acts make pregnancy and potential pregnancy discrimination in employment unlawful.

What is pregnancy or potential pregnancy discrimination?

  • When a woman is treated less favourably because she is pregnant or has the potential to become pregnant OR
  • When there is a requirement, condition or practice that disadvantages pregnant or potentially pregnant women.

Pregnancy refers to the time when a woman is carrying a foetus, and to the physical characteristics of pregnancy such as having a large abdomen and tiredness.

Potential pregnancy is defined as the fact that a woman:

  • is, or maybe, capable of bearing children
  • has expressed a desire to become pregnant
  • is likely or is perceived as being likely to become pregnant.

It is important to note that:

  • Pregnancy is a normal, healthy physical condition that many women experience.
  • Recruitment processes must be based on merit regardless of pregnancy or potential pregnancy.
  • Pregnant or potentially pregnant employees should be treated in a fair and equitable manner – an employee’s terms and conditions should not be reduced or other benefits denied on the basis of pregnancy or potential pregnancy.
  • It is not discriminatory to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate the effects of pregnancy.
  • Constant references to an employee’s pregnancy, touching her stomach and questions about whether she is ‘really’ planning to come back to work could amount to discrimination.
  • Not all women take their full entitlement to maternity leave.
  • Generally, employees can expect to return to their former position after maternity leave.
  • Pregnancy or potential pregnancy cannot be grounds for dismissal or retrenchment, even if this reason is only one of the reasons for dismissal.

Supervisors can help prevent pregnancy discrimination by:

  • Making all reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate the normal effects of pregnancy – solutions are best found through discussion of the ISSes with the pregnant employee.
  • Ensuring that a pregnant employee is only temporarily transferred to a ‘safe’ working environment where medical issues associated with a pregnancy or a legitimate occupational health, safety and welfare issue cannot be resolved.
  • Ensuring that an employee’s conditions remain the same when her position has been adjusted in some way because of her pregnancy, although her salary will alter if her hours decrease.
  • Not assuming that pregnant employees will automatically take their full entitlement to maternity leave, as women take varying amounts.
  • Advising pregnant employees of their rights and responsibilities in relation to parental leave and return to work arrangements.
  • Discussing how to keep in touch during the leave.
  • Applying to Human Resources for funding assistance where the staff member is replaced during the period of parental leave.

Support available at Flinders University

Parental leave includes maternity, adoption and partner leave. The Parental Leave provisions at Flinders are available at leave and absences policies and procedures. These set out employee entitlements (which differ according to a staff member’s employment status and length of service at the University).

The following support structures are usually available. A staff member should discuss her needs with her supervisor.

Prior to maternity leave

  • Different/lighter duties for a period of time.
  • Flexi-time.
  • Antenatal Leave.
  • Annual/Long Service Leave.
  • Special parking permit.
  • Sick leave (subject to accrued entitlements) is available for any staff members who are unable to work due to personal illness.

During maternity leave

Continuing/contract staff:

  • Up to 52 weeks maternity leave of which:
    • up to 18 weeks may be paid (at either full-pay or half-pay) – the length of the paid component being dependent on length of service prior to the expected date of birth
    • the balance is unpaid (although Long Service Leave and Annual Leave may be used during this period).

Casual staff:

  • Casual staff are not entitled to parental leave but still need to comply with the requirements regarding working before and after the expected birth (normally 6 weeks before and 6 weeks after the birth). They are still protected by the Federal Sex Discrimination Act.

All staff:

  • Keeping in touch programs.

Return from maternity/parental leave


Similar arrangements are available to staff who adopt a child.


One week’s paid leave and (where the partner is the primary care-giver) up to 51 weeks unpaid leave.

Further information

For more information and links in relation to pregnancy support, parenting leave and return to work visit Pregnancy and work: did you know?


Contact your HR Client Services Adviser or visit the Personnel Policy & Procedures Manual.

Contact Equal Opportunity and Diversity, Ph: 8201 3735.