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Fair Work Ombudsman examines CA clause

AAP logoAAP 17/12/2016 Rob Forsaith

The Fair Work Ombudsman is investigating Cricket Australia's controversial pregnancy clause that has been widely criticised in recent days.

CA confirmed on Saturday the independent organisation, charged with educating and encouraging compliance with Australia's workplace laws, was "seeking further clarification" over its contracts.

The Ombudsman has many roles, including assessing complaints or suspected breaches of workplace laws. It requested a copy of the relevant contract on Friday.

"We will cooperate fully with the Ombudsman, and welcome their inquiries because it is always our intention to provide the best support for all our players," CA chief executive James Sutherland said in a statement.

"The pregnancy clause has never affected a female player's right to sign a contract, and we have never, nor would we ever, discriminate against anyone on those grounds.

"It has only been about ensuring the safety of our players."

Sutherland told AAP on Friday there might be an "opportunity to develop the wording differently" but the issue had been "misrepresented".

"It's a health and safety issue," he said.

The clause hit the headlines shortly after CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) started formal talks on a new pay deal.

Submissions from both parties were sent this week to players. The union's submission raised concerns about a number of "outdated at best and rather condescending" issues relating to female players.

"We are extremely disappointed that this issue has been raised by the ACA," Sutherland said.

"Their senior executives were fully involved in negotiating, amending and then agreeing the contract for women players in the first half of 2015. As the ACA has shown no objection to this contract, they should take responsibility for their role in developing the current policy."

Sutherland suggested on Friday that female players had been put in an unfair position by the ACA, with reporters now asking them about a private matter.

"I'm sure that sort of line of questioning (about pregnancy and the clause) will make our women feel uncomfortable," he said.

"I'm sure (female players) would much prefer not to have to answer those questions and I would respectfully ask that people do stay away from it. Talk to us about it.

"It's disappointing that it is a distraction."

The ACA released a statement on Saturday night in response.

"The ACA rejects the proposition that it should not have raised the issue; silence is not the solution. It is critical that these areas are addressed," it read.

"The ACA was consulted on the development of the relevant policy and contract, and suggested some improvements which CA accepted."

Sarah Elliott is the only notable recent example of an Australian player to fall pregnant during her international career. Elliott disclosed she was pregnant and, while reluctant to take a contract, CA encouraged her to do so.

"She opted to stop playing (during pregnancy) and we paid out her contract, which I think in the circumstances is entirely appropriate," Sutherland said.

"I haven't heard any concerns (about Elliott's case) and I think we would have, directly or through the ACA, heard if there were concerns in the one case where a woman has been pregnant inside of a contract period."

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