What are some of the fears of female workers about getting pregnant during her employement?
Speak to any young female worker and more than likely, her answer would be whether she would be able to juggle between work and looking after the child.
Over the years, Singapore’s birth rate has been on the decline while the employment rate of women has been on the rise.
In a way, there is that correlation between both trends. The rise in female employment has contributed to the decline in babies being born.
There is nothing wrong with women working, in fact, they should. But perhaps women should also give some serious consideration about family planning.
The government has over the years made changes to the employment act and in 2001 introduced the Child Development Co-Savings Act which encouraged married persons in Singapore to have more children. The Child Development Co-Savings Act states the leave and benefits of working parents.
To further encourage married persons to have more children, the government together with the employers and unions also formed the Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy to help introduce work-life harmony programmes.
On the other side of the court, employers are also encouraged to implement flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting, part-time and flexible hours to encourage working mothers to remain employed.
Hence, the government has done a lot to ensure that women can have more children without stopping work.
But that being said, we have all heard stories of how women have been discriminated at work or terminated because they got pregnant during their employment.
So why do employers choose to terminate pregnant female employees? Are pregnant employees less productive than their non-pregnant colleagues?
I heard from a friend in Hong Kong that employers are not allowed to dismiss a pregnant employee unless she commits an offence during her pregnancy. If it does, then the employer is to compensate a month’s notice and 10 weeks of maternity leave. And if a pregnant employee was wrongfully dismissed, the employer will have to face prosecution by Hong Kong’s Labour Department while the employee is entitled to claim for reinstatement and remedies.
Also, Hong Kong seems to be more progressive in its family-friendly practices even without much legislation or incentive and grants from the government.
In fact, the HK government encourages employers to take the lead.
They have a Family-Friendly Employers Award which is given to employers who implement progressive workplace practices that cater to the family-care needs of employees and foster a positive working environment.
Should our companies and employers in Singapore be doing more to foster a positive working environment, and implement more family-friendly workplace practices to encourage more women to have children?