Pregnant Women in Malaysia Likely to Get Fired

Pregnant Women in Malaysia Likely to Get Fired
Pregnant Women in Malaysia Likely to Get Fired

According to a recent online survey by the Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), 44% of the 222 Malaysian women polled said they had lost a job, missed out on a promotion, were demoted or put through extended probation because they were pregnant.

Around 49% said they feared losing their jobs or being sidelined because of their pregnancy while 31% said they put plans to get pregnant on hold for fear of losing their jobs or promotion.

The survey found 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 them, reports the Selangor-based lifestyle news agency Star2.

“Our Federal Constitution and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) prohibits gender discrimination. When employers penalize women for having children, they are violating women’s human rights. Specifically, their right to have a family if they choose, their right to work, and their right to be appropriately appraised and remunerated,” says WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan.

“A woman should be free to choose if and when to have children. She should not have to fear losing her job because she has a baby.”

According to the survey, employers also asked discriminatory questions during their job interview. Almost 40% of women polled were asked if they were pregnant or had such plans in the near future.

“It is discriminatory for a prospective employer to ask questions about a woman’s marital status, pregnancy status or plans, sexual orientation or age, during the job application process,” stressed Sumitra.

Unfortunately, while discrimination is rife, few women complain or take action against their employers. Only 13% did.

This is mainly because many women do not know their rights. “They may not know the available platforms to seek justice. And even if they do, they may fear backlash and harassment for speaking up,” she said.

A woman who has been dismissed because she is pregnant can lodge an unfair dismissal complaint with the human resources department at her workplace or the Industrial Relations Office, which could result in an industrial court hearing.

“Current legal protections are very poor. Both the Employment Act 1955 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967 provide very minimal relief, if any. There is no legislation which specifically prohibits discrimination against women in the workplace,” explains Sumitra.

 “Although Malaysia ratified Cedaw in 1995, it has not adopted many elements of the convention into domestic legislation. So currently there is no means to enforce these provisions.”