There is a saying that goes, “Before anyone is anything, they are human beings.” The same applies to employees; before they are employees, they are human beings.
It is part of human nature to procreate. Female employees are unfortunately the only category of employees that are normally faced with the burdens of physically carrying the pregnancy, as well as experiencing all the challenges that come with pregnancy. For this very reason, when an employee falls pregnant, both the employer and the employee have a set of rules or regulations that act as a guide on what must be done. These stipulations are found in part XII of the Employment Act under the heading, “Employment of Females.”
Since part XII of the Employment Act speaks to female employees only, what about pregnant female candidates who seek employment, i.e. what is expected of them? This brings us to the question that this article seeks to answer, which is whether prospective employees must disclose their pregnancy during interviews or not.
Even though some employers do not openly say so, they consider pregnancy as a “business cost”. They believe it is a business cost in the sense that it prevents the affected employees from working as normal due to various complications that may arise before and after confinement. Secondly, it comes with compulsory maternity leave that keeps such employees from work for 84 days.
The previous statement is backed up by Section 113(2) of the Employment Act that reads: “On receipt of the notice under subsection (1), the employer shall immediately permit the female employee in question to absent herself from work until her confinement and thereafter he shall not permit or require her to return to work until the expiry of six weeks immediately after her confinement.” This then, according to such employers, makes pregnancy more of a burden than a blessing.
Prospective employers tend to have the expectation that prospective employees must disclose their pregnancy, if they are in that state, during interviews. In most cases, it is a matter of what is at stake if they are to be employed in that state, taking into consideration the above-mentioned factors. For example, if a female candidate is hired whilst pregnant, they will be more of a “burden” than an asset to the organisation. They will only be with the organisation for a short period of time before they go on maternity leave, hence it would be better for the employer to know about the pregnancy before engaging the female employee.
The correct position
The perception and misconception that some employers have regarding female employees and pregnancy are false. There is no employment law that makes it mandatory for female candidates of employment to disclose their pregnancy prior to engagement, i.e. during interviews. A female employee who has been employed whilst pregnant cannot be later punished for having not disclosed their pregnancy prior to engagement.
This, however, does not take away the fact that a prospective employee may choose to disclose their pregnancy simply out of courtesy. Their disclosure must not then be used to deny them any opportunity that they are completely qualified for, properly skilled for and rightfully eligible for. The decision to disclose pregnancy during an interview lies with the prospective employee, and most importantly, it would be out of courtesy and is not a legal obligation. However, as already stated, it is ideal for pregnant female employees to disclose their pregnancy in order to manage the expectations of the employer.
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