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Written Answer by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Acting Minister for Manpower & Senior Minister of State, National Development, to Parliamentary Question on Pregnancy and Maternity-Related Complaints by Employees

Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap: To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower in each of the years from 2004 to the first half of 2012 (a) how many pregnancy and maternity-related complaints were received by the Ministry; (b) how many of these were respectively rejected by the Ministry, resolved and payments made to employees, withdrawn by the employees, and referred to the Minister; (c) how many of those referred to the Minister were resolved in favour of the employees and in favour of the employers; (d) what are the reasons for withdrawals of complaints and whether the Ministry investigates withdrawals to protect employee interests; (e) what criteria are used for rejecting complaints; (f) how does the Ministry go about investigating complaints and whether investigations are carried out on the possibility that the case may go to court; and (g) how does the Ministry determine that dismissals are due to performance and not maternity-related.

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin:

Our female employees must be protected against unfair dismissal during their pregnancy or when they are on maternity leave. Our laws also ensure that they are entitled to paid maternity leave. Female employees who feel that they have been unfairly dismissed due to their pregnancy may appeal to the Minister for Manpower. If the Minister finds that the employee has been dismissed without sufficient cause, he may reinstate the employee or order compensation to be paid to her.

Since the Marriage and Parenthood Package was enhanced in 2008, MOM has received an average of about 100 pregnancy- and maternity-related cases each year. Most cases involved disputes over the dismissal of the pregnant employee. Others relate to the denial of maternity leave entitlements.

Of the cases lodged at MOM, about 1 in 4 were withdrawn by the employees after they have had the opportunity to assess the merits of their case.

Cases where the female employee is denied her statutory maternity leave benefits, either in full or partially, are referred to the Labour Court for adjudication. These form less than 7% of the total number of pregnancy- and maternity-related cases referred to MOM. Enforcement action will, and has also been taken against employers in egregious cases involving a clear breach of the law. In the last four and a half years we have taken action against 17 such employers.

However, the majority of dismissal disputes referred to MOM are not clear cut cases in that both the employee and employer are unable to clearly substantiate whether the dismissal was with or without sufficient cause. In such cases, MOM provides mediation services to help the parties settle their disputes expeditiously and cordially. Mediation is often the best way to resolve such employment disputes. Some 90% of such cases were amicably resolved through mediation. Where mediation fails, the employee has the option to appeal to the Minister for Manpower to ask for reinstatement. On average there are about 3 such cases each year. The Minister will personally look at each case on its own merits.

Employers are reminded to comply with the law in the provision of maternity leave benefits and treat their pregnant employees fairly. MOM will not hesitate to take action against employers who violate the law.