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Pregnant woman found a job and signed contract but lost the job before she could begin work

Li's case highlights woes of new employees who are newly-pregnant and who are not covered by the manpower ministry's maternity protection from pregnancy discrimination.

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A pregnant Singapore woman has lamented that she lost a job she had gotten even before she could start her job, in spite of the fact that she had already signed the job contract.

Expressing her frustration over being discriminated against due to her pregnancy, Facebook user Li Wu reveals that she had been called for a job interview on Apr 23 and had attended the interview on Apr 24. The next day, a staff member from the company informed her that they would be making her a job offer.

Li writes that she signed the job contract on Apr 29 and was asked to immediately go for the mandated medical checkup, since her starting date at the company would be May 2. That same day, Li went for the checkup.

Noting that her menstrual period was delayed, the doctor advised Li to take a self-paid pregnancy test that was not part of the company-required medical examination. That day, Li found out that she was indeed pregnant and promptly informed the staff of her new company.

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Staff at the company purportedly advised Li that she should not take the job at their company “as the site office is not safe, especially the steep staircase is not safe for a pregnant woman.” When Li told the staff that she wanted the job, the staff promised to call her with an update.

The very next day, on Apr 30, Li was told that the project manager felt that she was not suitable for the job. She shared: “I was told the next 6-7 months would be very busy and my pregnancy would definitely affect my job performance.”

Li tried to reassure the staff and even offered to cut down on her maternity leave but the company was resolute in their decision.

Dissatisfied, Li continued to contact the staff at the company before one staff member called her and accused her of threatening them. Recounting that the accusation made her burst into tears, Li wrote: “I felt helpless and I would not understand why she said I threatened her … I thought I was one being discriminated (against) and unfairly treated.”

That same day, the company scheduled a human resources (HR) meeting for May 2 and asked Li to attend. Noticing that she was affected by the situation, Li’s husband said he would accompany her to the meeting.

On May 2, however, company staff purportedly kept delaying the meeting. When she asked about purpose of meeting and her work instructions, staff asked her not to report to the site office. The company then arranged another HR meeting for May 6 and asked Li to attend without her husband.

At the May 6 meeting, company staff reiterated that the office would not be safe for a pregnant employee and that the workload would be more than what Li would be able to manage. Offering to reserve another job opportunity for Li in the future, the company withdrew the current job offer.

When Li pressed for a reason, a company staff member explained that it had been another staff member who had signed the job contract and that Li had not passed the pre-employment medical examination. The staff also assured Li that she has been working at the company for ten years and knows that the organisation would never discriminate against pregnant workers.

Li re-emphasised her commitment and repeated that she is keen to take up the job to no avail — she had lost the job even before she began her first day at work.

Sharing a detailed summary of events on Facebook, Li lamented: “I know I can file a complaint to MOM, but how would that change my circumstances? I wont be able to go back to this job and I wont be able to find another job as a pregnant woman. Can anyone help me?”

The Ministry of Manpower is committed to helping pregnant workers fight against discrimination in the workplace but Li would likely not qualify for maternity protection at the company given the reasons the company cited and since she has not worked for the company for a minimum period of three months.

Pregnant women who have worked for their employers for at least three months are eligible to claim maternity protection against retrenchment and dismissal without sufficient cause during their pregnancy.

Read Li’s story in full HERE.

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