With an unplanned pregnancy you and your employer were probably not expecting changes to your working arrangements and income.
Pick your own time to tell your employer, you are the best judge of when and what to say. If you've recently started a new job or accepted new responsibilities this conversation may be quite hard. You could also talk about your plans for returning to work and how you'd like to keep in touch during your absence. Some women experience great support and family friendly practice in their workplace, while unfortunately others have negative experiences.
Australia now has a government-funded paid parental leave scheme. The scheme allows 18 weeks for the primary carer of a child, paid at the national minimum wage, which can be transferred between parents and taken at any time in the first year after birth or adoption. You must have worked 330 hours within the year before the birth to be eligible. If you are pregnant and currently employed contact your employer or the Department of Human Services to find out more.
Some employers also have their own workplace parental leave entitlements. These should be written into your employment contract or organisational policies. Check with your employer to find out what you may be able to access under your scheme. Sometimes you may be able to combine parental leave with annual leave or unpaid leave depending on the flexibility of your employer.
Under the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 you are legally protected from discrimination in employment, whether you are a full-time, part-time, or casual employee, on the basis of pregnancy, marital status, and family responsibilities. That means that if your employer attempts to terminate your employment, reduce your hours, demote you, or does not offer training because you are pregnant then your legal rights may have been violated.
For more information and support contact:
- Working Women Queensland: advisory service on all work related issues.
- Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman: information on wages and employment conditions.
- Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission: information and advocacy service on all forms of discrimination.
Young pregnant and/or parenting students in Queensland are entitled to the same training and education as other students. This is regardless of whether you are attending high school, TAFE or university and these rights are protected in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.
If you are studying at a TAFE or university (either on campus or by distance education). you should be able to defer your studies for a certain period or apply for leave from classes. This will differ depending on your institution, so contact your student administration to find out what your options are.
If you are at high school, Education Queensland has policies around inclusive education and strategies for supporting pregnant and parenting students, to ensure that all state high schools are inclusive of pregnant and parenting students.
This means that if you want to stay in school or want to go back to school you have the right to do so and the school must support you to do this. Schools have to provide appropriate arrangements to support pregnant and parenting students to complete their education through flexibility in:
- Classroom and school management.
- Curriculum design, teaching and learning strategies, and assessment.
- Uniform/dress codes.
- Temporary alterations in attendance.
Unfortunately some pregnant and parenting young women still report experiencing a “hard time” or discrimination at school. Examples of discrimination that are unlawful are:
- Refusing to enrol a young person because they have a baby or young child.
- Advising or encouraging the parent/s of a pregnant or parenting student to withdraw their child from school on the basis of her pregnancy or her/his parental status.
- Refusal to recognise and address the possible needs arising for young parents who must accommodate child care arrangements into their school day routine.
- Lack of flexibility in the timetable.
There are a small number of state high schools that provide support programs or childcare centres for pregnant and parenting young people. They all operate differently and can be contacted directly for more information.
- POWER Program, Mabel Park State High School, Slacks Creek. Tel: 07 3489 2333
- Southside Education, Sunnybank. Tel: 07 3344 1056
- STEMM Program, Burnside State High School, Burnside. Tel: 07 54417300
- Ipswich State High School. Tel: 07 38134485 (pregnant and parenting support officer but no childcare services)
If you feel you've experienced discrimination or bullying it is important to speak with someone you trust, such as the Guidance Counsellor, Youth Support Coordinator, or another member of school staff. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with school staff you can contact your local youth service or the Youth Advocacy Centre - 07 3356 1002 (if you are under 17).
In addition to mainstream schooling there a number of alternative education options that can work well for pregnant and parent young people.
Distance education: studying while staying at home by enrolling in courses via a number of institutions on correspondence or online basis.
Alternative Education Centres: which may provide on-campus support such as a crèche or child care centre or a designated area where parents can study, rest or feed their babies. Edmund Rice Education Australia run several flexible learning programs in locations across Queensland, including Albert Park Flexi School in Brisbane which has on-campus childcare.
Tertiary Institutions: such as TAFE that offers education and training in a wide range of fields.
Home Education: where individually tailored education is provided by parents for their children. Within home education, parents are responsible for developing their own program for their child, conducting learning activities, setting assessment and monitoring the child's progress.
Open Colleges: provides distance education of nationally accredited, industry recognised vocational courses, with student support via a learning portal, called Open Space, where students can interact with each other and their trainers.
Other Programs: A number of schools in Queensland have specific programs in place to support pregnant and/or parenting students. Students can contact their nearest District Office to see if there is a program in their local area.