MTUC: Stop discrimination against pregnant women

N Gopal Kishnam

PETALING JAYA: The discrimination against pregnant women in the workforce will negate the government’s efforts in increasing the number of women in decision-making positions in the long run.

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Secretary-General N Gopal Kishnam also warned that such practices would see Malaysia lose good workers.

“If nothing is done to address the issue, via policies or laws, it could see Malaysia continue relying on foreign workers. This will be detrimental to the country in the long run.”

He was commenting on a recent online survey by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), where 44% of the 222 interviewed said they had been victimised by their employers after getting pregnant.

The survey also revealed that the top five ways employers discriminated against pregnant women were making the women’s positions redundant, denying them promotions, placing them on prolonged probation, demoting them and terminating their services.

Such practices, Gopal said should not exist in countries like Malaysia striving to achieve its goal of becoming a high-income nation, especially when the government of the day was in the midst of creating a more flexible system to encourage more women to join the workforce.

The Women’s Aid Organisation, meanwhile, said that currently there was no specific law on discrimination against pregnant women.

Its communications officer, Tan Heang-Lee, however, pointed out that WAO was advocating a Gender Equality Act, which aimed to protect all women from all forms of discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination at work.

“Pregnancy discrimination is just one of the many ways women are discriminated against in Malaysia. We need comprehensive legal protection for women.”

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) Executive Director Shamsuddin Bardan said there was no need for a special law to address discrimination against pregnant women as the Employment Act already covered such cases.

“The Employment Act clearly states that a woman – or anyone – can file a complaint against his or her employer if they feel they are being discriminated against.

“There have been many cases where the employers have been punished. It is not easy to discriminate, especially against women,” Shamsuddin told FMT.

He also stressed that employers were not allowed to fire a pregnant employee, as stated in the Employment Act, and these women were granted full paid maternity leave.