A survey made by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (RENGO) back in May revealed that out of 316 respondents, 81 female employees or 25.6 percent have suffered harassment in their workplace during pregnancy or following childbirth. Employees who were pregnant or had to attend to child care reported discrimination or unfair treatment by their superiors. Some were unjustly laid-off while others were pushed to resign.
Reducing the salary and laying-off an employee just because she’s pregnant or needs to take maternity leave are violations of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law and the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law. However, many employees reported being fired after returning from maternity leave. The most common excuse given is poor performance by the employee. Some also site unreasonable incompetence of the employee, especially due to the fact that they work shorter hours during pregnancy or after giving birth.
When an employee requests for shorter working hours, like in the case of a 38-year old worker in a vocational school in Tokyo, the superior responded that “There’s no job for those who work shorter hours.” The woman, despite already working on weekends, was denied her request. She worked at the company on a contract-basis, which was no longer renewed after she gave birth to her first child. Although she was referred to a subsidiary company, the offer was cancelled when they found out that she’s pregnant again. The woman decided to never work for that company again.
Despite the pregnancy harassment women go through, not everyone reports the incident for fear that they are only causing trouble in their workplace. Since 2008, more than 3,000 inquiries have been received by labour bureaus in the country. “The cases of violations reported and known to the public is only the tip of the iceberg,” said researcher Hiromi Sugiura from Rikkyo University’s Institute of Social Welfare.