Published: 19 August 2019
A woman worked for an events company for a short time before becoming pregnant. Although not entitled to be paid maternity leave, her employer gave her indefinite leave without pay. It was the woman's understanding that she could come back to her job when she felt ready to do so and that she would be provided with flexible working arrangements such as working from home on some days. While she was on leave she retained her key to the office and made a few office visits.
After seven months of leave the woman approached her employer who allegedly reassured her that she could come back to work. She was told that they would get back to her with detailed proposal when it had been discussed by management. The woman did not hear from the employer for almost three months and when she made contact she was told that there was no longer a role for her in the organisation. When the woman suggested a three month trial of flexible working arrangements, the employer refused to consider her proposal.
The woman lodged a complaint of carer's responsibilities discrimination. At the conciliation the employer denied discriminating against the woman. They said that there had been a misunderstanding and that although she had not resigned; they had not expected the woman to return to work. They also said that they were unable to accommodate the woman's request for part work without incurring significant expense.
Furthermore, the employer said that because of work performance issues arising before the woman went on leave, she required close supervision and hence could not work from home. In the interests of resolving the dispute, however, the employer agreed to pay the woman $8000 to compensate her for loss of income and emotional pain and suffering.
In general, your employer can only dismiss you or make you redundant because of your carer's responsibilities if they stop you from doing the essential parts of your job properly, and it would cause them unjustifiable hardship to make special arrangements that would mean that you could do the essential parts of your job.
More information on Carers responsibilities discrimination
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