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Pregnant and Unfairly Dismissed? Appeal to Minister

  • My Paper (19 August 2009) : Pregnant and Unfairly Dismissed? Appeal to Minister 
  • My Paper (17 August 2009) : 2 Ways to Boost Women's Employability 
  • My Paper (14 August 2009) : Do More to Protect Pregnant Women Workers


Pregnant and Unfairly Dismissed? Appeal to Minister
- My Paper, 19 August 2009

       We refer to the letters by Mr Gilbert Goh ("Do more to protect pregnant women workers", 14 August 2009) and Ms Chow Lai May ("2 ways to boost women's employability", 17 August 2009).

2.   Pregnant employees are protected under the law against unfair dismissals and from being denied their maternity leave benefits. Pregnant employees who are dismissed unfairly at any stage of pregnancy, including those who are forced to resign, can appeal to the Manpower Minister under Section 14 of the Employment Act. They can lodge a complaint directly with MOM's Labour Relations department at (65) 6317 1182 or email us at The Minister may order the employer to re-instate or compensate the employee. The laws were further enhanced in October 2008 to protect the maternity leave benefits for pregnant employees who are retrenched during the last trimester. It is also an offence to terminate the services of an employee when she is on maternity leave.

3.   The government is mindful that laws to protect pregnant employees should not undermine the employability of expectant mothers. The existing laws on maternity protection ensure that employees' interests are adequately protected without placing excessive burden on employers.

4.   However, employers must also play their part and recognise the importance of fair treatment to employees and job seekers, including expectant mothers. The Tripartite Alliance on Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) has been actively promoting the adoption of fair employment practices among employers.

5.   The majority of Singapore employers are fair and reasonable. Employees whose services were terminated during pregnancy or confinement made up around 1% of all employees who lodged employment disputes with MOM in 2008. Most of these cases were resolved amicably with payment made to the employee.

6.   MOM will continue to work with the unions and employer organisations, as well as TAFEP, to promote work-life strategies and educate employers on the importance of adopting fair employment practices and to comply with the requirements of the law.


2 Ways to Boost Women's Employability
- My Paper, 17 August 2009

I applaud the views expressed in the letter, "Do more to protect pregnant women workers" (my paper, Aug 14).

I agree that Singapore small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) lag behind multinational companies (MNCs) when it comes to standards of human-resource practices. However, unfair treatment of pregnant workers and gender discrimination happen not only in SMEs, but also in MNCs.

While an MNC I worked for had better benefits compared to those offered by SMEs, I was subjected to both types of discrimination. Despite the fact that the MNC had a policy to protect whistle-blowers and an external consultant to review its operations, feedback from the floor never reached the management.

Two years ago, Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC Halimah Yacob recommended that amendments be made to the Employment Act to better protect pregnant employees from discrimination and from being retrenched or fired because they were pregnant. She proposed that women to be protected throughout their pregnancy term, but she was unsuccessful.

A major concern now is that companies might try to avoid hiring women of child-bearing age and raise the level of discrimination against pregnant employees. I was asked during a job interview whether I had any plans to have children. When I said no, the interviewer said "good" and added that my application would be considered.

Recently, I was told by a company that it would not be able to consider my application as I am pregnant. While labour laws could be improved to protect pregnant workers, company policies and culture have a role to play in the problem.

As we cannot interfere with company policies and culture, the only solution is to encourage businesses to hire and retain pregnant workers by giving businesses incentives, such as tax rebates.

Two major areas need to be looked at to boost female workers' employability. First, companies should be encouraged to implement flexi-work schemes. Second, encourage and help women to return to work. Women can contribute effectively to the workforce and have kids at the same time.


Do More to Protect Pregnant Women Workers
- My Paper, 14 August 2009

Our labour laws do not do enough to protect pregnant women against unfair employment practices. Many women are pressured to resign prior to them taking their maternity leave, on one ground or other. Worse, some women may even lose their jobs during their extended absence from the workplace.

As a result, many of my female friends prefer to work for foreign companies as they usually treat their workers more fairly. Women employees in such companies tend to enjoy better benefits, which are documented in their letters of employment. The women also enjoy tip-top working environments.

In contrast, Singapore's small- and medium-sized enterprises continue to lag behind foreign companies in such human-resource practices. Local businesses that engage in unfair work practices ought to be shamed publicly so as to deter others.

These companies should not only be fined, but also have their licences revoked if they refuse to amend their unfair human-resource practices. Many women I know are afraid to have children because they fear that doing so would cost them their jobs.

This ought not to be the case for a society that prides itself on promoting high levels of workplace productivity. The Manpower Ministry can certainly do more to provide pregnant women with more protection against unfair work practices.