Pregnancy is deemed to be one of the most incredibly fascinating turning points of a woman’s life.
But when it comes to her place of employ, a woman on her journey to motherhood may face acts of discrimination instead of consideration and support.
Prior to her pregnancy, she may have been extremely productive at her workplace. But the trials of pregnancy can easily reduce the speed at which she can complete tasks assigned to her, as well as impair her ability to handle the volume of work she did before.
Some employers who operate their businesses without any “sentiment” may tend to respond to a woman’s pregnancy in various ways. In many instances in Guyana, this can take the form of reducing the workload, which in turn decreases the usual pay or offers the pregnant woman a lower position so as to cut costs. An employer may also choose to do neither of the foregoing and simply dismiss the woman altogether.
It is important to note however, that such acts, among others, constitute pregnancy discrimination.
In Guyana, there are several pieces of legislation which serve to protect pregnant women against discrimination in the workplace.
The Protection Against Unlawful Discrimination Act, for example, provides for the elimination of discrimination in employment, training, recruitment and membership of professional individuals and the promotion or equal remuneration to men and women, whether pregnant or not, who perform work of equal value and for matters connected therewith (13th October, 1997).
Section 4-Subsection 1 says: For the purposes of this Act, a person discriminates against another person if the first mentioned person makes, on any or the grounds mentioned in subsection (2), any distinction, exclusion or preference, the intent or effect of which is to nullify or impair equality of opportunity or treatment in any employment or occupation.
Subsection 2, in conjunction with Subsection 1, states that the grounds referred to are as follows:
(a) race, sex, religion, colour, ethnic origin, indigenous population, national extraction, social origin, economic status, political opinion, disability, family responsibilities, PREGNANCY, marital status or age except for purposes of retirement and restrictions on work and employment of minors.
(b) any characteristic which appertains generally or is generally imputed to persons or a particular race, sex religion, colour, ethnic origin, indigenous population, national extraction, social origin, economic status, political opinion, disability, family responsibilities, PREGNANT STATE, marital status or age except for purposes of retirement and restrictions on work and employment of minors.
Part III- Protection against discrimination in employment, Section 5 covers for equal employment opportunities in the statement made in subsection 1: It shall be unlawful for any person who is an employer or any person acting or purporting to act on behalf of a person who is an employer, in relation to recruitment, selection or employment or any other person for purposes of training, apprenticeship or employment, to discriminate against that other person on the grounds listed in section 4 (2).
Section 6 covers for no discrimination on any of the mentioned qualities when employing someone, especially if their qualifications match those that were described when advertising. Section 7 ensures that special measures be taken by employers of a temporary nature to promote equality of opportunity in employment based on the grounds set out by section 4(2).
Section 8 deems sexual harassment against an employee by an employer as a form of unlawful discrimination based on sex and in some cases, pregnancy.
Section 9 ensures that everyone doing equal work, even pregnant individuals must be paid equally.
So in essence, pregnant women are protected in the workplace from discrimination. They are ensured equality in hiring, promotion, opportunities, as well as remuneration.
(Article taken from the Guyana Inc. Magazine Issue 27)