Along with the increasing women’s participation in the workforce, it comes as no surprise that pregnancy and maternity leave should be one among the greatest concerns for HR leaders. However, cases related to discrimination and misunderstanding towards pregnant workers can still be easily found.
One possible reason is that many employers have not realised the importance of having unequivocal policies and guidelines regarding to this matter. So, what should your company do to accommodate and manage the employees during this time?
Pregnancy is one of the most important phase in women’s life. However, this period could be difficult to bear, especially for working women. Oftentimes, they have to choose between career and family because childbearing could cost them promotion, pay cut, or even the job itself. While there are laws protecting pregnant employees, discrimination against those with bun in the oven is not an uncommon news in Southeast Asia.
According to recent Equal Opportunities Commission report, one in five pregnant women and new mothers experience workplace discrimination in Hong Kong. The study indicates that around 33 percent employees in retail and 44 percent in hotels and restaurants encountered discrimination during pregnancy.
Furthermore, Workplace Discrimination Survey by Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) reports that more than 40 percent women in Malaysia face workplace discrimination due to pregnancy. The study reveals that 20 percent women had their job applications rejected or job offers revoked after they disclosed their pregnancy.
As an attempt to create a culture of inclusion in the workplace, it is imperative for leaders to put supports for pregnant women as top priority. Pregnancy and maternity leave policy should be carefully-arranged, not only for the sake of having one, but also to foster better employee engagement. Help your employees to go through this phase smoothly by following these things:
First step to create an inclusive workplace is to discourage any form of discrimination. In a recruitment process or promotion, you should not discriminate a candidate or female employee because she is pregnant or having children. Pregnant women will perform as good and productive as other employees, as long as they get the right accommodation and support from the employer.
Before signing their job contract, female workers should understand their rights and responsibilities in the organisation, including in terms of pregnancy and maternity policy. Therefore, they will be aware of their rights when the time comes, and the company can counsel and provide their needs accordingly.
As a result of pregnancy or childbirth, employers should help women in their job by providing flexible working arrangements. If they are unable to perform due to health condition, you should provide equivalent accommodations. This includes giving unpaid leave, alternative tasks and assignments, or lighter responsibility, until they gain strength to function as usual.
When an employee informs her pregnancy, HR leader should arrange their maternity leave and return to work. To avoid any legal issues, you will need to keep updated with the laws related to the matter.
Unarguably, pregnancy will affect the entire team. Owing to which, it is crucial to conduct effective and open communication with the rest of team members related to the maternity leave. You should make sure that when the employee is taking maternity leave, there will be someone who will take over the responsibility until she returns.