Media Statement: Discrimination against pregnant women at work

Shareen Shariza Dato’ Abdul Ghani

Chief Executive Officer of Talent Corporation Malaysia Berhad (TalentCorp)

Referring to recent news reports on a Women Aid Organisation’s survey regarding discrimination against pregnant women at work, while TalentCorp do not have enough data on this issue, we acknowledge there are some anecdotal situations where bias and some form of discrimination exist not only with women but other vulnerable groups.

Based on a surveydone by TalentCorp and ACCA,  we know that the top three reasons women leave the workforce are:

  1. to raise a family
  2. to care for a family member
  3. lack of work-life balance

 However, once these women feel they are ready to return to the workforce, there are various factors preventing them from returning to work including:
  • Limited options for flexible work arrangements (FWA) which pose a challenge to manage both their family commitments and their responsibilities at work
  • The problem of biasness whereby employers are hesitant to offer jobs to candidate who have gaps in their employment history
  • Mismatch in expectations between the potential employer and the returnees
  • Lack of confidence in the women returnees, contributed by being out of touch with the working world in addition to being unsure of career options and possibilities.
While there has been an encouraging increase in the number of Malaysian employers who have implemented FWA as a strategy to retain women talent such as CIMB Group, IHS Global (Malaysia), PwC Malaysia, Sunway Group and UEM Group, it is disappointing that many more companies are not making greater efforts to attract and retain talent.

International experience has shown FWA to be effective to retain talent and yet here in Malaysia only a minority practise basic forms of FWA like staggered hours. Based on a TalentCorp-PwC surveyin 2015 which involved 130 respondents including 67 of the largest 100 listed companies by market capitalisation (representing 70 percent of Bursa’s total market capitalisation), only 10 percent of listed companies surveyed plan to enhance or implement FWA within the year. Moreover, only a minority of companies surveyed have forms of FWA practised internationally. 
This year, to further retain women in the workforce, we have increased our efforts to promote the implementation of 90 days maternity leave as per the International Labour Organisation ‎standard of 14 weeks or 98 days. This standard has already been adopted by our ASEAN counterparts, namely Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

While the public sector in Malaysia has already practised this standard since 2011, we would like to see the private sector adopt it more aggressively. Currently, the banking and accounting sector have adopted 90 days maternity leave. Other companies outside the banking and accounting sector in Malaysia (eg IBM, Dutch Lady) have also adopted this.  

TalentCorp-ACCA Retaining Women in the Workforce (2013)
Diversity in the Workforce Survey (TalentCorp – PwC Malaysia, 2015)



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