Fewer pregnancy-linked complaints against bosses

Fewer pregnancy-linked complaints against bosses

The number of pregnant women turning to the authorities to help them fight unfair bosses dropped last year, latest figures show. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) handled 113 pregnancy- related complaints, down from 126 in 2012.

The figure comes after a new law took effect last May requiring firms to compensate pregnant workers who are made redundant or sacked without good reason during the full term of pregnancy.

Previously, the law protected an expectant mother only for the six months leading up to her due date.

The MOM told The Straits Times that "most" of the cases it handled last year were disputes over redundancy and dismissal.

"(The) majority of the cases were mediated and resolved amicably between employer and employee," said a ministry spokesman.

"Other cases were withdrawn or not pursued further by the employees."

However, the ministry did not give a breakdown and would not be drawn into commenting on why complaints dipped last year.

"As the figures may vary from year to year, it may not be useful to speculate about these changes," it said.

One pregnant woman who sought the MOM's help last year was 32-year-old C. Cai. She had been working as an administration clerk at a stock trading firm earning $1,800 a month, when she discovered she was five months pregnant with her third child early last year.

She said she informed her boss and was told not to worry about her job. But in May, she was paid one week's salary and told to leave the firm.

The MOM intervened after she approached it for help and the firm subsequently made a one- off payment of eight weeks' pay.

"I felt helpless and lost at that time," said the GCE N-level holder, adding: "Pregnant women are vulnerable and may not know the law, so they should be protected."

She gave birth to her daughter last August and is now attending courses to upgrade her skills, with the hope of finding a new job.

Mr Erman Tan, president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, said: "Singapore laws are very clear, but there may still be the minority who break them."

He added that the number of cases is small compared to the large numbers of firms and female employees.

MP Zainudin Nordin, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, believes firms should not be let off the hook if they are found to have discriminated against pregnant woman.

"We understand that they need to make money, but they also have a moral responsibility to treat their staff well," said Mr Zainudin. "It is basic human decency."

tohyc@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 7 in The Straits Times.

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