Anna Thompson with her daughter Emily
Anna Thompson with her daughter Emily

How did this law still exist in 2017?

EARLIER this year, Anna Thompson found herself in a daunting position.

She and her husband had decided to relocate from Hong Kong to Australia, which meant Ms Thompson was looking for work while organising a huge international move.

She was also newly pregnant.

In time, the engineer was offered a position as a project planner at Laing O'Rourke in Sydney, and Ms Thompson decided to tell her future employers about her pregnancy before she signed the contract.

"I felt like it was the right thing to do, and that my conscience would be clear before the contract was on the table, because then they wouldn't be locked into taking me," she said.

"I think most decent companies at that point wouldn't suddenly retract the offer, but I was definitely nervous that they might not appreciate the news."

Due to the logistics involved in moving countries, Ms Thompson didn't start her new job until she was six months pregnant, and she left soon after to give birth to Emily, who is now eight months old.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the law change was a win for families such as Anna Thompson and daughter Emily
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the law change was a win for families such as Anna Thompson and daughter Emily

Ms Thompson will return to work in February, and she said while it wasn't ideal to have to find a new job while pregnant, the process had been surprisingly stress-free.

"My employer has been really good and very understanding," she said.

Believe it or not, until a week ago, it was still legal for NSW employers to sack a woman who knew she was pregnant when she was hired.

It meant that if Ms Thompson hadn't told her employer she was pregnant before signing the contract, they would have been within their rights to dismiss her.

That archaic loophole has now been closed, bringing NSW into line with the rest of the country.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman and Minister for Women Tanya Davies announced the abolishment of two subsections in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, which allowed the practice, last Sunday, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian describing the changes as a "great win for women in the workforce" and their families.

However, there are plenty of NSW workplaces that have never baulked at hiring pregnant women, and Sydney's Laing O'Rourke is one of them.

The company's general manager human capital Andrew Nolan said he had hired three pregnant women in the past 12 months.

"They were hired because they were absolutely the best people for the role," he said.

"We're always looking for the best candidates, and these three women went through the full normal interview process, they disclosed that they were pregnant, we decided they were the best for the job so we were happy to make some accommodations in bringing them on."

In those cases, there was some internal reshuffling and some new workers were added to the team on a short-term basis to cover the maternity leave.

Anna Thompson found the process of jobseeking while pregnant ‘surprisingly stress-free’
Anna Thompson found the process of jobseeking while pregnant ‘surprisingly stress-free’

Mr Nolan said the idea that hiring pregnant women was bad for business was "antiquated".

"It's about having the best candidate and talent for the job. Having those people in the business is sensible, and not having those people in the business would be to our detriment," he said.

While Laing O'Rourke is part of the construction industry, which has a notoriously low rate of female participation at just 17 per cent, Mr Nolan said his company was doing its part to attract a more diverse workforce.

Women currently make up 24 per cent of firm's workforce, and Mr Nolan said that had been achieved through generous parental leave schemes, pay parity reviews and signing up with DCC Jobs, a company that connects female employees with female-friendly workplaces.

The concept of hiring the best candidate for a job regardless of their circumstances is also supported at HSBC Bank Australia.

"I hired a senior professional at the beginning of this year and before she joined HSBC she asked if she could meet up before starting in the role," head of human resources Paul Murphy said.

"I assumed she wanted to get a better understanding of the induction process but she told me she wanted to let me know she was 10 weeks pregnant, and she was unsure if she should take the position.

"I thanked her for being very open and honest with me about being pregnant, but I told her she had got the job on merit because she was the most capable person to do the role, and now that she was pregnant it didn't mean that the position had changed - she was still the best candidate."

News Corp Australia


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