PETALING JAYA: When Jaclyn Lim told her prospective employer that she was six weeks pregnant, they withdrew their job offer even though both parties had signed a contract.
“They accused me of lying to them during the interview and refused to believe me when I told them I didn’t know I was pregnant at the time. They made me feel as if I did a really bad thing by getting pregnant. They insisted that my pregnancy would hinder me from carrying out my job to their expectations.
“I was angry. This wasn’t my first pregnancy. When I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, I worked right up to my delivery. I was trying to be upfront but instead I was accused of being dishonest and my professionalism was questioned,” says Lim.
Lim is one of the 40% of women who say they have experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
An online survey of 222 women by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) revealed that 44% of women in the workforce had either lost a job, missed out on promotions, demoted or put through prolonged probation because they were pregnant.
Close to half (49%) said they feared losing their jobs or being sidelined because of their pregnancy, more than 30% said they were asked if they were pregnant or of their plans to get pregnant when they interviewed for a job and 31% said they delayed plans to get pregnant for fear of losing a job/promotion.
“A woman should be free to choose if and when to have children. She should not have to fear losing her job because she wants to have a baby. Policy makers must ensure that employers are not discriminating pregnant women. Terminating, demoting, or failing to hire or promote a woman because she is pregnant is gender discrimination,” said WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan.
The survey also found that only 13% of those who have experienced pregnancy discrimination lodged a complaint or took action against their employers.
Although article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution prohibits gender discrimination in the workplace, this is largely limited to public institutions. In 2011, Noorfadilla Ahmad Saikin won a landmark case against the government when her appointment as a temporary teacher (Guru Sandaran Tidak Terlatih) was revoked because she was pregnant. In 2005, former Malaysia Airlines (MAS) stewardess Beatrice Fernandez lost her 14-year battle against the national carrier for terminating her services when she became pregnant with her first child.
“Malaysia has to enact a Gender Equality Act that will ensure all women have equality under the law and equality in accessing the law. Currently, Malaysia does not have laws which ban discriminatory interview questions, for example, which is a hidden form of discrimination. It’s high time we implement such laws that will not only protect women against discrimination but also out an obligation on employers to eradicate such discrimination. Developed countries such as the United States adopt the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) to protect women’s rights in the workplace.
“This act ensures that employers treat pregnant women the same way they treat other employees. It also forbids employers from discriminating pregnant women in terms of pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, trainings and so on. Malaysia needs to work towards this,” added Sumitra.
news source: thestar.com.my