Our response to “Improve job security for pregnant contract employees”
The following is AWARE’s letter to the Straits Times Forum Page, published November 5, 2011
We refer to the forum letter “Improve job security for pregnant contract employees” by Madam Salinahwati Mohd Ali on November 2, 2011.
In her letter, she aired her disappointment at the lack of measures to protect pregnant contract workers. Her contract was terminated twice – when she was less than 3 months pregnant with her second child and when she was 6 months pregnant with her third child.
Madam Salinahwati’s story reveals a gap in the current measures taken by the government to protect pregnant women. Contract workers who are pregnant have been left out of these special provisions.
This lack of protection for pregnant contract workers is contrary to the requirements of the United Nations’ Convention For The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This Convention, which Singapore is party to, obliges the Government to “prohibit, subject to the imposition of sanctions, dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave”. The State is expected to take steps to ensure that all pregnant women can continue to work. This includes contract workers.
Therefore, it is unacceptable that laws protecting pregnant women only apply to those who are permanent staff. This is a gap. The law should be extended to include pregnant contract workers.
In addition, the law has another gap as it only effected after the first trimester. Thus, employers who fire pregnant women before they reach the fourth month can get away with such discriminatory practices. The law needs to be further strengthened by removing this limitation on the first trimester.
Lastly, in the absence of an anti-discrimination law – which AWARE contends is essential – there ought to be enhanced and targeted public education on fair employment practices among employers. Currently, the Tripartite Alliance For Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) is active in this area but efforts still seem to fall short as dismissals among pregnant women continue.
AWARE would like to urge all who have been unfairly dismissed or forced to resign at any stage of pregnancy to lodge their complaints with the Ministry Of Manpower’s (MOM) Labour Relations Department by calling 6317-1182 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. AWARE also operates a crisis phone Helpline and can be contacted at 1800-774-5935.
Ms Braema Mathi
Chair, AWARE CEDAW Committee