Unlawful message ... A pregnant woman's employer sent her a text saying, "You have a baby now, and I can't let you too tires (sic)".

Unlawful message ... A pregnant woman's employer sent her a text saying, "You have a baby now, and I can't let you too tires (sic)".

A Melbourne homewares shop has been forced to pay out a former worker and publish an apology after it unlawfully reduced her hours when she became pregnant.

Good Housekeeping Australia in Cranbourne was found to have discriminated against a retail assistant in her early 20s when she told her boss that she was pregnant in 2011.

Owner-operator Hui Zhou reduced the woman's hours from up to 27 to seven hours a week, explaining in a text message that "You have a baby now, and I can't let you too tires (sic)".

The assistant was told she could accept this or resign. She resigned but later lodged a complaint with Fair Work Australia.

An investigation found the owner had breached the Fair Work Act and ordered Ms Zhou to pay her former worker $2000 in compensation.

Ms Zhou, a Chinese immigrant, also agreed to place an advertisement in The Daily Chinese Herald to raise awareness of pregnancy discrimination laws among the Chinese community in Australia.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said the owner-operator admitted the breaches after workplace laws were explained.

In Australia, it's illegal for employers to discriminate against women for being pregnant. It's also illegal for employers to fire pregnant women on the basis of the pregnancy alone.

The case comes as the federal government aims to give more Australian workers the right to request flexible working arrangements, but without compelling bosses to accept such requests.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions said on Monday that 50 per cent of women don't go back to work because of workplaces that are unfriendly to families.

"This is crazy when you consider the impact on our economy,” Ged Kearney, ACTU president, said.

He called for the government's proposed laws to go even further by giving employees the right to appeal to Fair Work Australia if an employer refuses a reasonable request for family-friendly arrangements.

“If we want to improve productivity and ensure women get a fair go then we need to make sure that the onus is on employers to prove they are being reasonable, and if they are not, that there is a right to appeal. Let's give this tiger some teeth.”