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1 post categorized "gender discrimination"

August 04, 2008

To Be or Not to Be - Pregnant

While some would call it discrimination, I on the other view it in plain terms. If a woman is obviously pregnant, and comes to you for a job and you’re seeking a full-time employee (to do a job), then why bother if she will go on leave shortly after giving birth?
In Australia, the latest issue that has given rise to much debate is discrimination against pregnant job seekers. Unfortunately, there are some things in life that do require planning - job hunting and pregnancy aren’t ideal bedfellows. This is not to say that pregnant women are incapable of working, and this is not the issue. It’s an issue of the costs employers fork out to cover employees. Of course employees provide maternity leave for employees who are pregnant further down the track but what happens when you turn up to an interview with an obvious bump that means you’ve entered your third trimester, and the job classified specifies full-time employment? If an employer turns the pregnant applicant down, they’re thinking in terms of the full-time element, in that they’re not going to have a full-time employee for a portion of time, usually the first three to six months after the birth.

It’s one thing to work in a place for a steady period of time and then be pregnant, but job hunting while pregnant? Hello? Call it chauvinistic, or discriminatory, but the real working world requires people to do the job ‘now’. Jobs aren’t day spas. You can’t book in advance or reassure an employer that you’ll be back on board a few weeks after giving birth. In the example presented in the Daily Telegraph, the woman in question discusses her financial predicament. Well, there is such a thing as family planning isn’t there? Miss Giblin needs a job to pay off the mortgage/bills - then a baby.  Well I’m no financial genius, but here’s my suggestion to Miss Giblin - move away from Sydney’s North Shore area, and to a cheaper suburb. Don’t use credit cards, and have one car. Admittedly, I did have a little laugh when I read ‘North Shore’. I don’t even want to think what a mortgage would be like in that area, except to say that it’s pricey.

Therefore, the jury is out -for me at least - on whether this is a discrimination issue. Hiring a full-time employee isn’t a frivolous matter. There is superannuation to consider, along with sick and vacation leave, and if a person is there for the short term, taking company maternity leave thereafter, it leaves the employer short anyway, so there is little point in employing someone who will be away for a block of time. An employer still has to cover the cost by hiring contractors or temporary staff. If the employer is a small business (not a corporation - even corporations are stingy), it becomes more costly. As it stands, corporations have more advantages than small businesses.

As for pregnancy discrimination of full-time employees that plan parenthood years down the track? The corporate world is rife with such examples. I have seen it before my eyes, and it's quite subtle, and I really hate to say it but I have seen women target their pregnant co-workers, often taking advantage of their maternity leave to step over them and poach staff, suggest internal changes and take over their co-workers' jobs. A little over a year ago, I was poached by a manager because my manager was on maternity leave. My new - control freak manager - decided to take advantage of my  manager's absence and shift staff, without asking beforehand. One day you're working and the next you're called into an office, thinking 'wtf?', to be told that you're shifting desks whether you like it or not. In yet another workplace prior, the accounts manager decided to take over her 'friend's' job, making out that she was more efficient or could offer more than her 'pregnant' co-worker. When male recruiters don't hire pregnant female applicants, their decision is based on practical issues, whereas females view the absence of their female co-workers (on maternity leave) as an opportunity to usurp roles, even if it means that their colleague will lose their position or be at a disadvantage. I realize that it's a controversial observation, but that is how I've seen things unfold.

Conclusion: Pregnancy is a double edged sword after all these years of progress. It's better to be a sole business operator as a pregnant women rather than work for someone else, or among a team of potential office vultures.

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