I REFER to Tuesday's letters, 'Working mums penalised in other ways' by Ms Mabel Tan and 'Pregnant employee bullied by manager, now stay-home mum' by Ms Swee Bee Lan.
Their letters suggest they expect employers to reward pregnant employees in the same measure as other employees, even though a pregnant employee who takes maternity leave is (other factors being equal) inevitably less productive than her single or non-pregnant colleague in a similar position in the company.
This would be unfair, not only to the employer, but also to other employees who have to cover the duties of their pregnant colleague.
Consider this: Two employees each have 120 units of work to complete in a year. One becomes pregnant and goes on maternity leave, completing only 90 units. The other has to cover her duties, thus completing her own 120 units, as well as the 30 units of her pregnant colleague - a total of 150 units.
In such circumstances, it is right and legitimate for an employer to reward the worker who has been more productive, more than the worker who has been on maternity leave, whether by a bigger year-end bonus, better promotion prospects or more days of leave.
The rationale is simple. The measure of reward and recognition an employee receives is commensurate with the level of her contribution. An employee who chooses to become pregnant and take maternity leave chooses to compromise her level of accountability to her employer.
In the same way, if I cover the duties of a pregnant colleague over and above fulfilling my own duties, I rightly expect to be recognised by my employer.
There is nothing discriminatory in an employer rewarding one employee over another on the basis of different performance levels, regardless of the reason for the disparity in productivity. Ms Tan and Ms Swee's labelling of such corporate practices as acts of discrimination reeks of petulant resentment.
A pregnant worker surely cannot expect her employer or colleagues to regard her pregnancy with the same joy and excitement as her family or friends - as, after all, a pregnancy in the workplace is nothing but bad news.
In respect of colleagues, their workload will increase (not necessarily with any assurance of extra reward). In respect of the employer, the pregnant worker not only does not contribute to the company during her maternity leave, but she actually causes loss to the company as she continues to draw pay for zero productivity during that period.
It is therefore perfectly understandable - and human - for an employer or a colleague to exhibit signs of dissatisfaction.
Ms Tan and Ms Swee should therefore think twice before labelling the less-than-enthusiastic response to their pregnancies as 'discriminatory'.
Yeh Siang Hui
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 14, 2008.