Doing more for pregnant employees: A little understanding goes a long way

Pregnant mother

(Photo: Alicia Petresc/Unsplash)

Put yourself in the shoes of a pregnant employee and think — Imagine being gaslighted at work because of your pregnancy. Co-workers dismissing you as “too sensitive” because of your pregnancy, talking behind your back, labelling you as incompetent and not pulling your weight at the workplace. How would you feel?

Pregnant mothers at work face a double-whammy: from personal stresses from her pregnancy and work stresses from unempathetic bosses or co-workers. Co-workers may feel that pregnant mothers are getting “special treatment.” Bosses could easily sideline the needs of pregnant mothers and reject their requests for flexible work arrangements.

For pregnant mothers seeking employment, some were also turned away by companies that valued profits over empathy and the intangible value its workers bring to the table.

Increase in maternity discrimination cases: AWARE

The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) said that there has been a 48 per cent increase in maternity discrimination cases based on the reports it has received from 2020 to 2021.

This increase could be due to heightened awareness of anti-discrimination legislation, which spurred pregnant mothers to callout discriminatory employers and workplaces. It could also be the case that there is a general increase in maternity discrimination cases.

It is hard to pinpoint which is the true factor causing the rise, but I think we can all agree that maternity discrimination is unacceptable and reflects an unempathetic society. It is not too difficult to put ourselves in pregnant mothers’ shoes — imagine your mother, sister or a close female friend being discriminated against because of her pregnancy. How would you feel?

In 2021, the Government announced that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) will be enshrined into law, signaling a strong stance against workplace discrimination.

By law, pregnant employees cannot be retrenched or dismissed without sufficient cause if they have been at their job for at least three months.

Employers should not hastily assume that pregnancy necessitates a drastic drop in productivity. By working together with its pregnant employee, they can find an optimal path for both the employer and employee — cultivating employee loyalty and signal to other companies that it is a progressive employer.

Everyone — from individuals (as a co-worker) to employers can be more understanding towards mothers-to-be and help them tide through this physically and mentally taxing period of their lives by lessening the stress they might face at work. A little understanding goes a long way!

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About Author

A young Singaporean concerned about issues workers face. As humans, we spend a third of our lives sleeping and recharging, and another third for our personal life, and the last third at work (based on a 24-hr distribution). That's why we should pay attention to issues surrounding work.