Sally Tan (not her real name), 29, told us of how she was scheduled for a job interview. A day before the interview, she found out she was pregnant. Being the honest person she was, she shared it with the hiring manager of the company.
The hiring manager expressed his unhappiness and cancelled the interview. (Ok, the exact term used was “postponed indefinitely”). All because she committed the crime of pregnancy.
This got her thinking:
We are all human beings, we all came from a selfless lady who carried us around for 9 months in their belly. Like it or not, we all arrive on this planet from a vagina.
Not only do working mothers have it hard having to manage both work and family, they have great difficulty having to find employment in the first place!
Incredibly, the hiring manager is another female! Another female whom actually remarked “Oh, how unfortunate” to a candidate being pregnant..and then proceeded to cancel the interview!
This is not an isolated incident. Sally knows of friends whom had their job offers revoked also on the grounds that they are pregnant.
Are we not a society that prides ourselves to hire based on merit?
Now, the labour movement in Singapore had spent much effort building (and continuing to build) a system that is fair for mothers and their employers. They have spent much effort in policy protection for mothers.
If you are employed, whether contract or permanent, you have a wide variety of tools to help you seek redress. And more are being developed every day.
The weakest link however, is that employers refuse the the relationship of employment to start with. That means they don’t even want to give the job to a woman whom is having, about to have or anticipated to have a baby.
This is actually quite dangerous for society. This could mean that companies won’t reward working woman in childbearing age fully, in the fear that they could “drop off to have a baby”. It was as if it was a crime…or a disease.
Today, there is no legal redress to discrimination. Singapore does not yet have an Equality Act (an anti-discrimination legislation) to take unethical employers to task.
The reason provided by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) is this:
“The experience of other countries is that anti-discriminatory laws alone might not adequately change mindsets in this area. Employment relations are complex, and at the core is the mindsets of both employers and employees.
Singapore is fortunate to have a strong tripartite partnership built over the years that allows us to use this approach to effectively tackle difficult and sensitive employment issues in a win-win fashion. With the support of the Tripartite partners, TAFEP is adopting a promotional and educational approach to tackle the issue of discrimination at the workplace. We believe that this will be a more effective way to encourage employers to adopt progressive and enlightened employment practices.”
I think what TAFEP is trying to say, is two things:
a.) Singapore is not yet ready for anti-discriminatory laws. It can be written into statute, but it can very easily be gamed.
b.) There needs to be a lot of education, moral persuasion and buy-in by both employers and employees alike before legislation can be passed
c.) There is action you can take.
“Strong tripartite partnership” means that the Ministry of Manpower and the NTUC have much policy leverage they can use against an errant employer.
Individuals who encounter employment discrimination should first contact TAFEP. They would then work with the employer to improve its employment practices, put in place fair and responsible employment practices and get them to adopt Tripartite guidelines.
Should the company continue with unethical practices, the Ministry of Manpower will initiate administrative action. This includes curtailment of their work pass privileges.
We are still a long way off from getting rid of discrimination…of any sort, be it of mothers, of race, of sex, religion, sexual orientation and so on.
Everyone has a wealth of skills, knowledge and experiences to offer your company. If you chose to filter out people because of bias, the loss is yours.