To answer this big question, there is no absolute definitive conclusion that one could derive. It’s not uncommon for female candidates to lie when the interviewer bombs us with a question on family planning. Who wouldn’t? Especially if the role has potential career progress!
However, there will come a time when we start thinking of the right time to start a family. Some few concerns which we may have are if our performance and attendance be affected, and if we will be capable of being fully committed to work physically and emotionally?
Concerns that the company may have on female employees are the constant leave application for medical checkup and doubts to delegate certain tasks due to their condition since pregnant women are stereotyped to be capricious and sensitive during the first three pregnancy stages. Furthermore, the company will be planning to hire substitutes when these female employees are on maternity leave.
Generally speaking, female employees shouldn’t be discriminated in employment on the grounds of gender, as Article 8 provides that everyone are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law. To add to that, Malaysia ratified CEDAW in the year 1995 which is a treaty that spells out women’s rights and the need for national legislation to protect such rights. The unfilled blank is to what extend these laws can safeguard female employees from being discriminated on the grounds of gender, specifically pregnancy?
Regardless of the existence of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution as well as CEDAW, there are still female employees in hesitation to get pregnant or otherwise due to certain reasons such as the nature of the job or the enforcement of a bonding agreement that prohibits them.
Let’s say, you are an air stewardess who gets pregnant after a year working with an airline company and you refuse to resign upon informing your Manager. Due to your condition and refusal, the company terminates you for getting pregnant. You claim for unlawful dismissal or complain about the unfairness for discriminating you on the grounds of pregnancy. This delusive perception of discrimination on the grounds of gender specifically pregnancy is fictitious in nature because of the fact that Article 8 doesn’t prohibit any gender discrimination in employment of private sectors. This has been clearly established by the Federal Court in the case of Beatrice Fernandez v Sistem Penerbangan Malaysia  3 MLJ 681 which held that an employee can be legally dismissed for being pregnant owing to one specific clause in the collective agreement stating that in a situation if an employee becomes pregnant, they will be either be terminated or will have to resign.
I will explore more on Article 8 in the next issue.