2 claim to be sacked for being pregnant

SINGAPORE - Two women had accused the managing agent of the town council run by the Workers' Party (WP) of "unfairly dismissing" them because they were pregnant.

Their complaints against FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), which manages the Aljunied-Hougang- Punggol East Town Council, were made separately to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in November last year and this May.

The disputes have been amicably settled, the ministry told The Straits Times this week, declining to disclose details of the cases for confidentiality reasons.

First to complain was a 26-year-old public relations staff member who said she lost her job last September when she was six months pregnant. She had worked for the company for about eight months.

The other was a 30-year-old community liaison officer who had her employment contract terminated in May, one month after she returned to work from her maternity leave. The single mother had worked at FMSS for more than 11/2 years.

Both graduate mothers had been pregnant with their first child. They had sought the ministry's help to get compensation from FMSS, MOM said. "Both cases were resolved through mediation and all parties reached an amicable settlement," it added.

The Straits Times understands that the 30-year-old received a "goodwill" payment last week while the 26-year-old got nothing.

When contacted, FMSS' senior public relations executive Kuldip Kaur said: "In no case was FMSS found guilty of or liable for any discrimination against its employees."

It is not the first time FMSS is in the spotlight. In May, the Government and WP traded blows in Parliament on how the WP had appointed the new company, set up by a WP supporter, to run town council services without calling for a tender.

The two women asked not to be named on Friday because they said they have moved on.

The 26-year-old, who has found a job, said: "I had expected them to show some compassion and understanding to pregnant women, but they disappointed me."

Said the 30-year-old: "Even though the company said it followed the law, there were other things it did that I felt discriminated against pregnant women, like cancelling medical certificates and outpatient claims related to pregnancy."

Under the law, an employer cannot dismiss a pregnant worker six months before her due date without justifiable cause.

Maternity-related disputes at the workplace appear to be rising, with 126 complaints made to the MOM last year. This is up from 110 in 2011. In the first half of this year, it received 53 complaints.

Most were about "employment termination of pregnant employees, while others were about maternity leave benefits". The bulk were "amicably resolved" through mediation, the ministry said, without giving numbers.

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