One in five pregnant women is being discriminated against at work, a national survey has revealed.

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One in five pregnant women is being discriminated against at work, a national survey has revealed.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics survey of the transition by women in and out of the workforce through pregnancy found negative or inappropriate comments, missed promotions and even demotions continued to be a common problem.

The proportion of pregnant women reporting discrimination has barely changed over the past seven years.

The report found of an estimated 523,000 women who had given birth to a child over the previous two years, more than 351,000 had worked while pregnant.

Of those who were employees, more than 253,000 had paid leave entitlements.

The ABS found about 30 per cent of the women stopped work five weeks or more before the birth of the child while 23 per cent stopped work within seven days of giving birth.

But 19 per cent of those surveyed said they experienced discrimination during their pregnancy.

The most common forms of discrimination were missing out on a chance for promotion, missing out on training or development opportunities and negative comments from a manager or supervisor.

Other discrimination included inappropriate comments from workmates, demotion, changed work conditions without consultation, denied leave and having a less favourable account of their work performance.

Returning to work to keep their job or being requested to by their employer was cited by more than a quarter of mothers as the reason for heading back to the workplace.

The director of the Federal Government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, Helen Conway, was disappointed pregnant women still faced discrimination.

“We continue to see sexism in the workplace,” Ms Conway said.

She said another finding, that nearly one in five women permanently left their job during pregnancy, highlighted the difficulty Australia had in boosting its female workforce participation rate, currently at 65.3 per cent.

“It’s not just a women’s issue, it’s a family issue. We need to bring about cultural change so that flexible work arrangements and flexible careers are seen as the norm,” she said.