Coercion traditionally involves using force or threat to get someone to do something, but there exist also “implied” threats.
Last month, over lunch, I met with a lady who’s expecting a baby. She’s excited at the prospect of being a mother, but she shared with me something that was troubling her at work.
“My boss wants me to reduce my maternity leave…she thinks that our business would have an eventful few months and that my participation would be ‘beneficial’…” says my friend.
The boss suggested that my friend shorten the leave, or to return to work a day each week. Of course, being politically correct about it all – the boss did say that it is “her choice”, however the non-verbal and body languages say otherwise.
My dear female friends – if you ever faced with something like this, please speak up about it. In Singapore where the laws are strict, employers are unlikely to break the law and deny you your statutory rights. However, they can use emotional/peer pressure to cause you to give up the same rights.
These “requests” are never razor-clear as to what flouts a law and what doesn’t. But when in doubt, say “no” first – your employer cannot disagree. If you feel that you are victimised after that, there are avenues for you to seek redress.
I am no medical professional but an informed read on medical journals will tell you why maternity leave is so important, for instance:
Maternity leave reduces infant mortality
Short maternity leaves are associated with postpartum depression
But honestly, if you’re an employer and you’re asking your pregnant employee to return to work, do you really want to be held responsible for anything untoward that may happen to her or her child?
Where can you seek help?
So where would you go to seek help if you feel that you’re being victimised or coerced into sacrificing your maternity leave? If you’re a member of a Union, speak with your union leaders first. If you’re in a large company, speak with your HR Manager. If not, go to the Ministry of Manpower and file a complaint.
Singapore is a land where love, birth and babies are scarce. The policies are designed to protect mother and child.
And please, no amount of money, no promotion, no amount of corporate power will ever replace your health, your life and the life of the child you’re carrying.