Let there be no 'bumps' at work

FAIR TREATMENT

Let there be no 'bumps' at work

Towards the end of a job interview, I was asked: “How long have you been married and are you planning to have a child?” Everyone was staring intently at me, waiting for a response. The recruiter, after a couple of moments, retorted, “If you are planning to conceive, we can’t afford any maternity benefits for at least a year and there will be no deduction in work timings.”

Was it really necessary to consider motherhood an obstacle in the recruitment process? This is bitter, but true: pregnancy in workplaces can be a challenge. Women are assumed to be less efficient during pregnancy and even after childbirth. Most bosses dread the time when a woman rejoins work after her maternity leave. Her focus will be on child-rearing rather than on goals and targets set by the company, is the rationale.

Attitude change

Discrimination against pregnant women still prevails in most workplaces. For example,
supermarkets refuse to hire pregnant women as they will not be able to stand for hours in helping customers select their products.

Similarly, expectant women would not be able to travel much for marketing tasks, so employers may need to reschedule work. This may face opposition and negativity from colleagues.

At times, bosses also discourage pregnant women from returning to work saying that their newborns would need them. Take, for instance, the case of Patricia, who worked in a company’s marketing department for 10 years. She claims a promotion to a marketing team leader was denied because she was pregnant and about to take six months of maternity leave. When she returned to work, she faced harassment and her workload was reduced.

Rhea faced a similar scenario. She worked for a major supermarket chain and was receiving training for a second-in-charge position. When she became pregnant, she was a service supervisor. “I was almost instantly taken out from my role as a supervisor and was placed solely on checkouts. No other training for management positions was given to me after I revealed I was pregnant,” she confesses.

One of the major challenges that women, who are victims of unfairness face, is that they don’t want to talk about it overtly. They are petrified that they will be branded troublemakers and that speaking out may prevent them from securing employment in the future. If a woman still works for the company that has treated her unfairly, she may feel that with the additional responsibility of raising a child, she cannot afford to lose her job.

The issue of pregnancy discrimination has become even more apparent as women of childbearing age enter the workforce at higher rates and corporate downsizing forces many managers to seek high productivity from their team. However, organisations need to realise that pregnancy is a natural process. A female employee is also a wife and mother, and needs to be justly supported.

Supervisors must be more sensitive to the pregnancy challenges of female employees and re-design their job profile temporarily so that the common discomforts don’t interfere with the work. Moreover, the employee must also be provided with sufficient breaks for meals or nursing the child after returning from maternity leave. Work-life balance is an imperative aspect to be well thought about and is the plinth of all humane decisions. It’s high time for attitudes to change and stringent pregnancy-related guidelines to be set in the workplace.

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