A pregnant working woman has alleged she was fired via text the day after revealing to her employer that she was pregnant.
Amy, a young Melburnian in her probation period at her full-time corporate job, had taken sick leave due to a "pregnancy-related illness" which she had a medical certificate for. The day after revealing she was pregnant and on the day she was meant to return to the office, Amy got a text to say her employer had "decided to cease" her employment "due [to] excessive sick leave" while on probation.
"Put your hand up if you were fired this morning at 7.47am via text — by a corporate job mind you — and you had emailed them yesterday saying that you are pregnant, suffering from pregnancy-related illness, and had a medical certificate," Amy said online. "You’ve texted me at 7.47am when my shift starts at 9am with no prior talking to about performance or anything like that — just terminated via text."
Amy was sitting in her car, meant to be on her way to her job when she says she received the text message which read:
"Good morning Amy, Not sure if you were working today, we've been decided to cease your employment yesterday due to excessive sick leave as you're still in your probation period (sic). Please return your work items, monitors, laptops etc today or tomorrow. I have an 8am appointment and I'll call you after that. I'll prepare a formal letter this morning."
Responses from shocked Aussies were scathing of the unnamed employer, advising Amy to report them to the Fair Work Commission for the abrupt dismissal. "Definitely follow up with Fair Work, so sorry you have to deal with this while you’re unwell and preparing for a baby," one person said.
"Go to fair work. I had this happen during my pregnancy last year and I won my court case," another shared.
A pregnant employee cannot be discriminated against
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), under the Fair Work Act an employer "can’t take adverse action against an employee or a prospective employee for discriminatory reasons such as because they are pregnant".
"This means that an employee can’t be fired, demoted or treated less favourably than other employees because they are pregnant. These are called general protections," a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
While the Fair Work Act does not require an employee to tell their employer that they are pregnant, those who want to take unpaid parental leave must give their employer 10 weeks' notice where possible that they will be taking leave.
Employees on probation are entitled to sick leave
Employees on probation receive the same entitlements as a person who isn’t in a probation period — which includes the entitlements in the National Employment Standards (NES) and protection from discrimination at work.
"If hired on a full-time or part-time basis, an employee on probation is entitled to accrue and access their paid leave entitlements, such as annual leave and sick leave," the spokesperson said.
Full-time employees are entitled to 10 sick days per year. The leave is pro-rata for part-time employees.
What to do if fired for being pregnant
If an employee thinks their employer has taken adverse action against them because they are pregnant, they can make a general protections application with the Fair Work Commission. The general protections laws protect most employees.
Speaking generally, any worker with concerns can also contact the FWO directly for advice. Workers can report their concerns anonymously if they prefer.
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