Monday, November 9, 2009

the lady doth protest too much?

This article had this phantasmal feathered fowl gobbling with indignation.

We at the Barnyard Chorus and/or our partners (including, but not limited to) the porcine (badly drawn or otherwise), bovine, feline and canine may at some point make the decision to have some babies. This is of course the personal choice of each Animal. This Turkey may or may not be a figment of your imagination (or a terror that flaps in the night - whichever you prefer) but it feels that this is a most pertinent and systemic lacuna which needs to be addressed immediately.

Actually, this Phantom Fowl sees two levels of indirect discrimination here, one not as visible as the other.

1. Termination of employment when pregnant

Prior to the new baby bonus scheme coming into effect, many people voiced their concerns that the additional cost to the employer (i.e. longer maternity leave) under the new measures would adversely affect working women who were pregnant. The law as it currently stands is as follows (taken from the Employment Act, Chapter 91):

"Right to benefit unaffected by notice of dismissal given without sufficient cause

84.—(1) Without prejudice to sections 81 and 84A, no notice of dismissal given without sufficient cause by an employer to a female employee which —

(a) if given before 31st October 2008, is given —

(i) within a period of 3 months preceding the estimated delivery date for her confinement (as certified by a medical practitioner); or
(ii) within a period of 3 months preceding the date of her confinement; or

(b) if given on or after 31st October 2008, is given —
(i) within a period of 6 months preceding the estimated delivery date for her confinement (as certified by a medical practitioner); or
(ii) within a period of 6 months preceding the date of her confinement,

shall have the effect of depriving her of any payment to which, but for that notice, she would have been entitled or would, on or before the date of her confinement, have become entitled to under this Part.
" (underlining mine)

Essentially, before 31 October 2008, you could be given a notice of dismissal at any time for whatever reason until the end of your 6th month of pregnancy and not be entitled to claim any maternity benefits. This has since been revised in Section 84(1)(b). As it stands, on or after 31 October 2008, if a woman is given a notice of dismissal (for whatever reason) within the first 3 months of pregnancy, she would not be entitled to claim any maternity benefits.

But this necessarily begs the question - what would constitute "sufficient cause"? Would it not be simple to make an allegation of poor performance? Unlike the UK or say, Canada both of which have a procedure for redress for instances of both direct and indirect forms of discrimination via an independent Employment Tribunal, I believe (and please correct me if i'm wrong) that the only recourse women in Singapore have when faced with this situation is to send a complaint to the Ministry of Manpower which will then investigate the matter [summary available on MOM's website - props for covering single mothers though, yay!]

Regardless, I do not believe this is sufficient as no information is given to help the aggrieved person determine what constitutes an unfair dismissal.

My second issue is this:

2. Who is covered by the Employment Act?

Only people who are covered under the Employment Act have the above recourse if their employment has been unjustifiably terminated. Taken from Section 2 of the Employment Act (Chapter 91):

"employee" means a person who has entered into or works under a contract of service with an employer and includes a workman, and any officer or employee of the Government included in a category, class or description of such officers or employees declared by the President to be employees for the purposes of this Act or any provision thereof, but does not include —
(a) any seaman;
(b) any domestic worker;
(c) subject to subsection (2), any person employed in a managerial or an executive position; and
(d) any person belonging to any other class of persons whom the Minister may, from time to time by notification in the Gazette, declare not to be employees for the purposes of this Act;"

(underlining mine)

And what does sub-section (2) say?

"(2) Any person employed in a managerial or an executive position who is in receipt of a salary not exceeding $2,500 a month (excluding overtime payments, bonus payments, annual wage supplements, productivity incentive payments and any allowance however described), or such other amount as may be prescribed by the Minister, shall be regarded as an employee for the purposes of —

(a) sections 20, 20A, 21, 22, 23 (read with section 10 or 11, as the case may be), 24, 25 and 34 and Parts XII to XVI (read with the Second and Third Schedules); and
(b) such other provisions of this Act as the Minister may, by regulations, specify,

and those provisions shall apply in relation to that person subject to such modification as may be prescribed. "
(once again, underlining mine)

What recourse do women, who find themselves in a situation where they have been terminated due to pregnancy but are in executive and/or managerial positions, earning more than $2,500 monthly have? According to the article, 75% of complaints received by MOM were from women who work in Small and Medium Enterprises. This fowl does wonder about who the remaining 25% were.

*The Poultrygeist accepts all responsibility for this slightly disjointed post and the overwhelming legalese contained herein. Whoops!

1 comment:

  1. That is astonishingly poor. There really cannot be workplace equality and a healthy and happy society without robust maternity and paternity leave.

    Employers as a class benefit from the unpaid labour of women as a class in connection with childbirth and childcare. The benefit is very simple: a pool of more productive workers to choose from (including, for example, the men who now have the kids they want, and the childcare they want, such men being so happily circumstanced only through the unpaid labour of their female partners). To the (fortunately, increasing) extent that male parents as a class contribute to unpaid childcare labour, which correspondingly increases the productivity of their partners, the exact same logic applies to paternity leave. So employers ought to shoulder the cost of parental leave for all people. And there shouldn't be this sort of wriggle room to get them out of this.

    This is without even starting on all the other social benefits of having children, from which employers benefit (like, uh, society and thus the all-important FREE MARKET!!eleventy11one! continuing to exist at all), or the meaningless of striving for any society other than one where it is possible for all people to maintain both ecnoomic independence and family lives.

    Magical Chicken's manifesto for a better world!


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