Discrimination towards pregnant women still a problem in the Malaysian workplace, finds survey

Author: PM editorial | Date: 24 Aug 2016

Women’s Aid Organisation says some women not aware of their rights or how to make a formal complaint

Workplace discrimination against pregnant women is still a problem in Malaysia for 44 per cent of women questioned by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).
The survey asked individuals from across the country to give their experience of being pregnant at work. The top five ways employers discriminated against pregnant women were: making their positions redundant, denying them promotions, placing them on prolonged probation, demoting them, and terminating their jobs.
“A woman should be free to choose if and when to have children,” said Sumitra Visvanathan, executive director of WAO. “She should not have to fear losing her job because she has a baby. Malaysian policy makers must ensure that employers are not discriminating against pregnant women. Terminating, demoting or failing to hire or promote a woman because she is pregnant is gender discrimination.”
The WAO went on to discover that only one in eight women who had lost their jobs due to pregnancy fought the discrimination by making a formal complaint. The WAO said that many simply do not know what their rights are in this situation or what platforms are available to make a complaint.
Discrimination that occurred in the interview process was also covered by the survey. Speaking to The Star, Jaclyn Lim said she had a job offer withdrawn when the employer discovered she was six weeks’ pregnant, even though a contract had already been signed.
“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,” said Lim. “They insisted that my pregnancy would hinder me from carrying out my job to their expectations.”
Workplace discrimination has also been on the agenda in neighbouring Singapore recently, where the government said organisations that discriminate on the grounds of race or religion should have their hiring powers restricted.