By NINA TI and LAY HSUAN, LIM
A woman who lost her job because she fell pregnant was dealt a huge blow recently when the Shah Alam High Court decided to dramatically reduce the amount of damages awarded to her case five years ago.
In what observers are calling a landmark case, Noorfadilla Ahmad Saikin’s awarded amount of RM300,000 in damages (in 2011) was slashed to a paltry RM30,000 on Feb 15.
Despite all our concerted efforts to bring more women back into the workforce – through the implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives nationwide – this latest twist in a hotly debated legal saga is a reminder that gender equality in the workplace is still elusive, and that women can expect resistance if they choose to combine family and career.
Are we going backwards?
While major industry players are working hard to change mindsets on women empowerment and equality, it looks like the ‘powers that be’ could be the biggest offender in reversing these efforts.
In Noorfadilla’s case, the government retracted her placement as a temporary teacher in 2009 when education officers discovered that she was expecting after two weeks of starting work.
To add insult to injury, the judicial commissioner remarked that Noorfadilla had not been completely honest because she did not disclose her pregnancy during the job interview. She was also inappropriately positioned as ‘profiting’ from the RM300,000 award for damages.
Why was her position (as a victim of pregnancy discrimination) removed? Why deny her the right to be employed because she is an expecting mother?
Job nature and company culture play a role in determining how organisations work toward treating their pregnant employees. It’s definitely going to be different from one organisation to another.
Where people lack knowledge in handling this issue fairly at their workplace, employers need to be better equipped and adequately trained on gender sensitisation.
In our opinion, the one thing that business and human resources leaders need to remember is this: Don’t force a pregnant employee to choose between career and family.
Put yourselves in her shoes. Then, commit yourselves to work something out so she can still have the best of both worlds and achieve a balance between the two.
For all business decision-makers out there, what would you do?