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Maternity leave pitfall looms

A FEDERAL magistrate has found an employer’s refusal to make reasonable efforts to meet an employee’s request to work part-time on returning from maternity leave to be discriminatory.

It was held that, by requiring the employee to work full-time, the employer had indirectly discriminated against the employee on the basis of her sex.

There was evidence that suitable part-time work was available with the employer, albeit different work from that which the employee had been doing prior to going on maternity leave.

The court found that the available part-time work was important work that the employee was capable of doing and that needed to be done.

This being the case, the court resolved that the employee should have been given the opportunity to take up this position.

The magistrate concluded that the employer had not tried hard enough to find a suitable part-time position for the employee and that  "with a little imagination the [employer] could have found useful work for [the employee] to do for three days a week" until the expiry of her contract.

The case illustrates that an employer should endeavour to be flexible and explore all of the employment options reasonably available within an organisation to accommodate an employee returning from maternity leave.

Katherine Eyres, solicitor

9288 6871

Ian Curlewis, partner

9288 6756

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