Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Mum claims pregnancy cost her job

Charlee Thompson worked at the Kepa Rd Z Energy station for a year. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Charlee Thompson worked at the Kepa Rd Z Energy station for a year. Photo / Jason Oxenham

A petrol station attendant believes she was let go from her job when a new lessee took over because she was pregnant.

Charlee Thompson, 23, will miss out on paid parental leave because she does not have an employer.

The mother-of-two worked at the Kepa Rd Z Energy station in Orakei for a year before the lease changed hands on March 26 and had been planning to take parental leave starting two weeks before her baby is due on May 3.

But the new lessee, Triangle Service Station, required all staff to reapply for their jobs and did not re-employ her. She claims the company's operations manager made it clear that was because she was pregnant.

"He told me it didn't seem logical taking you on when you're only going to work for two or three weeks and then take leave," she said.

She had made about $600 before tax working 50 hours a week, so she would have qualified for the maximum paid leave rate of $488.17 a week for 14 weeks, or $6834.

Human Rights Commission spokeswoman Christine Ammunson said it was illegal to refuse to employ someone because of pregnancy.

But Triangle Service Station co-owner Bill Carson said the company chose staff based on what he called "the Z factor - how they interact with our customers and their workmates and how they do their job".

"We make our employment decisions based on the 'Z factor' and best fit for the role, and do not discriminate based on gender, ethnicity or any other factor," he said.

Ms Thompson has two other children aged 5 and 2. They all live with Ms Thompson's mother and brother and the brother's son in a three-bedroom state house across Kupe St from the petrol station.

Ms Thompson's partner does not live with them but helps out financially, so she does not qualify for a welfare benefit.

That means her sole income is now family tax credits and child support totalling $217 a week. She pays her mother $150 a week in rent.

"Early last year, Work and Income wrote a letter saying 'you have to go and look for employment now that your son is turning 5'," she said.

"That's what I did. My daughter is in kohanga reo and I have a good relationship with my childcare centre and they were very keen to take the baby so I could go back to work after 14 weeks. I really wanted to go back to work."

Paid parental leave
*Fourteen weeks, which can start up to six weeks before due date if arranged with employer in advance.
*Pays a woman's full pay or $488.17 a week, whichever is lower.
*Woman must have worked for the same employer for at least 10 hours a week, and at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month, in the six or 12 months immediately before baby's due date.

Read more
For more on Pregnancy and birth click here.

- NZ Herald

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