In Focus: Female Employees Are Still Asked About Pregnancy Plans

By Kathy Gurchiek Aug 3, 2017
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Many people might think an employer asking a female employee if—or when—she plans to have children is a thing of the past. However, it's still a practice in some parts of the world, from a hospital in Australia to government offices in New Zealand to a company in China where female staffers have to inform their manager a year in advance of their intentions to conceive.

On the job for less than a day as Labour Leader for New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern addressed questions during a TV interview on Tuesday about her plans for a family. Ardern—who could become the next prime minister when voters go to the polls in September—took issue with being asked if it is acceptable for a prime minister to take maternity leave while in office. It angers her, according to news reports, that employers think they have the right to know whether their employees are planning to have children.

'Unacceptable': New Zealand's Labour Leader Asked About Baby Plans 7 Hours Into Job

Seven hours into her new job, New Zealand's new Labour leader, Jacinda Ardern, 37, appeared on a TV show where she was asked by the co-host whether she planned to have children. "It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace, it is unacceptable, it is unacceptable," she said. 

In New Zealand, the Parental Leave and Employment Act splits parental leave into two types, one of which is maternity leave. A woman is eligible for leave if she has  worked for her employer for at least six months (averaging at least 10 hours per week) by the time of her child's expected delivery or adoption date. The leave is one continuous period of up to 14 weeks and includes at least 8 weeks' leave after the baby is born. This means that maternity leave can potentially be longer than 14 weeks if the child is born later than the expected delivery date (EDD) and the women began her leave several weeks before the EDD, according to government sources.
(The Guardian)

Female Doctors Asked About Family Plans During Job Interviews: AMA

During job interviews at public hospitals, female doctors are being asked about their plans to have children,  a practice the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says should have "stopped yesterday."
Brad Frankum, New South Wales president of the AMA, has called for tougher penalties against hospitals and training institutions to wipe out the practice, after he received reports of it taking place during interviews and informal talks with candidates beforehand.

In Australia, eligible employees who are the primary care-giver of a newborn or adopted child can receive up to 18 weeks of leave paid at the national minimum wage, according to government sources.
(The Sydney Morning Herald)

Viewpoint: Pregnant Women Are Being Treated Badly at Work Across the UK.

In a first-person opinion column, Jo Swinson—chair of Maternity Action, a U.K. maternity rights charity and a former member of Parliament—writes about pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workforce. She notes that a survey for the U.K.'s Equalities & Human Rights Commission in 2013 found that 70 percent of employers say women should declare if they're pregnant at a job interview, and a quarter think it's reasonable to ask women candidates whether they plan to have a baby. 

She was at the center of a pregnancy-related squall in 2013 when a male colleague in the House of Commons gave Swinson—then seven months pregnant with her first child—gave up his seat for her while other male colleagues sat by.
(The Telegraph)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Equal Employment Opportunity]

These Interview Questions Could Get HR in Trouble

There are questions that are simply taboo to ask in an interview, according to an HR consultant with DevelopIntelligence, a technical software development company headquartered in Boulder, Colo. "Any question that refers to an individual's sexual orientation, marital or family status, religion, and so forth are no-gos."
(SHRM Online)

Amid Charges By Former Law Student On Gender Equality, Former Clerks Defend Gorsuch

A former law student of Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, alleges that in a course she took from Gorsuch at the University of Colorado Law School last year, the judge told his class that employers, specifically law firms, should ask women seeking jobs about their plans for having children and implied that women manipulate companies starting in the interview stage to extract maternity benefits.

Federal law prohibits employers from making hiring decisions based on pregnancy status or family plans. Sisk alleges that Gorsuch said, in Sisk's words, "Companies have to ask these sort of questions at the interview so that companies can protect themselves."
(NPR)

Employer Pays $100,000 After Firing Just-Hired Pregnant Applicant

Want a road map on how not to react to a successful applicant who announces her pregnancy immediately after receiving an offer letter? Look at the behavior of an employer in Florida that recently settled a legal claim on that issue.
(SHRM Online)

Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty?

Some studies show that visibly pregnant women are judged as being less committed to their jobs, less dependable, less authoritative, more emotional, and more irrational than otherwise equal, non-pregnant female managers. This paper tests if there is a motherhood penalty on wages and performance evaluations by using two studies: a laboratory experiment with student participants and an audit study of actual employers. 
(Harvard Kennedy School Women and Public Policy Program)

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