Call it the second baby effect: women return to work after the birth of their second child and discover they're being discriminated against by previously accommodating managers.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has reported an increase in calls to its inquiry line from women who return to find that their workplace has suddenly become inflexible, or worse, their job is gone.
In one case, a woman on her second period of maternity leave was scheduled to return to work on a part-time basis. When her employer called to discuss her return to work, she was told she was going to be paid out, as there was no longer part-time work available.
The commission also heard from a woman who had worked part time after the birth of her first child. Due to return in four months, she had asked for the same conditions, but was told she would have to return to a full-time role. Another woman had been allowed to work two days a week after the birth of her first child, but now, on her second period of maternity leave, her manager told her that flexibility was no longer available.
Kate Jenkins, the state's new equal opportunity and human rights commissioner, speculated that the emerging trend was linked to the fact women going on maternity leave for the second time had left part-time - not full-time - roles.
When women had their first baby, they had been working in full-time positions, so were viewed as highly valuable. But with their second baby, they were often leaving part-time positions, which are often perceived as less valuable.
''They come back from the second and they want part-time work and there's some people saying, 'Oh, for goodness' sake, how much do we have to do? You're an inconvenience. Are you going to have a third baby?''' Ms Jenkins said.
''My recent experience with managers is that they've all now accepted we've got to accommodate to some degree. But they don't feel as generous … after the second and subsequent children.''
Ms Jenkins has been appointed commissioner after two decades with law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, where she was a partner in the employment practice and a leader in the field of equal opportunity and discrimination law.
The commission had been without a permanent head for almost 18 months, after Attorney-General Robert Clark rejected lawyer Hugh de Kretser for the role, the choice of the then-board. The majority of the board then walked out in protest.