KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 — The Human Resources Ministry said today it would not allow discrimination against pregnant women at work and vowed to protect informants.
Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Ismail Abd Muttalib urged those with complaints or information of alleged discrimination against women in the workplace to step forward, saying that the ministry will probe such claims.
“I will not allow discrimination [against] female employees. The ministry will carry out investigations on any companies that discriminate. If there are such cases, come to us, make a report.
“We will investigate, we won’t allow discrimination to workers, including those who are pregnant and those who have delivered,” the Maran MP said in an oral response in Parliament.
He was responding to PKR’s Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin, who had pressed the ministry to provide assurance that pregnant women seeking employment would not be turned away because of their pregnancy.
Zuraida cited women’s rights advocacy group Women’s Aid Organisation’s research which found that most women faced workplace discrimination, including some who were blocked from promotions or had to postpone their pregnancy.
Zuraida said protection for women is inadequate in Malaysia, citing the landmark court case of Noorfadilla Ahmad Saikin who was denied employment after the Education Ministry discovered that she was pregnant and revoked her 2009 appointment as a temporary teacher.
“A Pregnancy Discrimination Act should be considered for implementation because if we want women to progress together in changing the nation’s economy, then we have to think of a progressive policy like developed nations so women are not discriminated,” she said.
“Discrimination [against] women is discrimination [against] the nation,” she added, highlighting the crucial need for women to participate in the workforce to contribute to the nation’s economy amid gloomy economic times.
Ismail responded by saying that the ministry is carrying out a holistic review of existing labour laws such as the Employment Act, besides saying that the ministry will also be paying attention to practices in developed countries.
“There are no laws that say it’s an offence for any employer who does not hire pregnant women as employees,” he had earlier said.
He said women who had been terminated from employment due to their pregnancy could seek to be reinstated, saying that employees dissatisfied with alleged discrimination could even file civil lawsuits in court.
He had also noted that only one complaint had been filed with the ministry during the 2014 to 2016 period over alleged workplace discrimination involving women.
Ismail said that the nation’s 14.7 million-strong workforce is composed of nine million male workers and 5.6 million female workers, with the country’s unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent including 209,000 female workers. He added that the government is working towards the target of 55 per cent women’s participation in the workforce.
DAP’s Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto had also asked what the Human Resources Ministry was doing to create awareness of pregnant and women workers, claiming that many women who were victims of workplace discrimination did not know where they could complain. She also said such women were worried that they would be “blacklisted” with their names circulated to other employers, denying them employment elsewhere.
In response, Ismail urged those with information on alleged discrimination to approach him, saying that he will “personally” work with his staff to ensure there is no discrimination.