One fifth of working expectant mothers reported that they were treated unfavourably in the workplace of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), according to a survey conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

More than half, 58 percent, reported that their pre-natal medical check-ups were not counted as sick leave, and 51 percent reported being treated impolitely by colleagues and employers because they were pregnant.

Photo: Pixabay.

The EOC interviewed around 1,500 female employees working in SMEs who were either “pregnant, had given birth within the past 12 months, or have children less than 6 years old.” The EOC also conducted 505 interviews with employers or human resources department heads.

According to the findings published on Thursday, around 79 percent of women returned to their original work positions after giving birth and 11 per cent claimed that they faced unfavourable treatment within the first year.

  • 38 percent reported that post-maternity medical check-ups were not counted as sick leave.
  • 35 percent reported that they were treated impolitely by employers and colleagues.
  • 20 percent also said that it was difficult applying for leave to take care of their children.
  • 72 percent of employers said that pregnant employees and no impact on the work environment; nine percent said that they had a positive impact. 15 percent said that pregnant employees had a negative impact.
  • Only 17 percent of employers told the EOC that family-friendly measures were implemented at the workplace while 83% said that they allowed lactation breaks.

The EOC said that the problem was more significant among skilled and manual workers and those working in the restaurants and hotels industry, as well as in the service sector.

Alfred Chan. Photo: i-Cable screencap.

Alfred Chan Cheong-ming, the new EOC chief, said in a press release: “Refusal to count pregnancy-related medical check-ups as sick leave may constitute pregnancy discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, in addition to possibly violating the Employment Ordinance.”

“Denying accommodation for family care responsibilities, such as emergency leave to tend to one’s child, without justification, may also contravene the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance,” he added.

Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.