Singapore's employers are still not family-friendly

Friday, March 07, 2014

You know when the government keeps asking us, "Why won't you guys get married? Why won't you guys give birth to more babies?" and many of us replying the usual answers:

"I want to establish my career first, babies will slow me down,"

And while all of us gasp in shock and go, "WHY would a baby slow you down? You can look for a company with better work-life balance!"

Or so I thought.

When I was in PR, work was very hectic and most days, I start work at 9AM and wouldn't knock off until 7PM or even later. There were a lot of deadlines to meet, a lot of meetings, a lot of rushing here and there and a lot of mingling to do, which takes up a lot of time and energy.

I knew then, if I had wanted a baby, I had to leave the job. And so I left.

When I first went into my second job, I was just married. My boss looked at my personal particulars and what was his first question?

"Are you planning to have a baby any time soon?"

It's actually a trick question because you can't exactly say that you WANT to have a baby right about now because if you say that, then the chances of you landing up with that job has probably just halved itself, which sucks, if you really want the job.

Shit just got worse because you can't say no either, because when you're married, you are technically licensed to be pregnant and if you're healthy and all, pregnancy can occur anytime.

So imagine the whole lot of explanation you have to do when you are 12 weeks into your pregnancy and you have to let your superiors know.

"Congrats! But I thought you didn't want a baby any time soon???"

(The unsaid part was, "this was why we hired you! What are we gonna do when you're away for your 4 months of maternity leave? You mean we have to find someone to replace you in the meantime?")

 Unfortunately, working life's quite like that in Singapore, especially so if you're working in SMEs because they have such lean operations and low budget, they cannot afford anyone to be on leave for a long period of time.

In this 2.5 years as a mother (10 months of pregnancy + 19 months of having Dylan so far), I realized that our government is actually not doing enough to protect mothers with young children.

Pregnant ladies, yes. If any company dares to fire a pregnant lady, they will get charged and fined BUT you will realize that mothers with young children do not have such privilege at all.

Previously, I blogged about how unsympathetic my colleagues were when Dylan was down with HFMD right?

There was actually more development to this issue but I decided not to post anything at that point of time but now that it has somehow came to a closure, I thought I would wanna share with everyone here what I went through.

Dylan was down with HFMD on the 4th of February but we didn't know it until the 6th, where I was supposed to go back to work and then we realized that Dylan is unfit for school and had to stay at home for a week. You can read more about it in [this post].

Informed my colleague the soonest possible and after she replied a single sentence "Now then you say", we were not in contact until 12 February. I was scheduled to return to work on the 13th of Feb, one week after the HFMD episode.

On the noon of 12 Feb, I received a whatsapp message from the very colleague. Basically, I was "fired" over a whatsapp message.

She told me that there was a new colleague who will come in to replace me and I didn't need to go back "until further notice".

Of course, when I saw the message I thought, "WTF does that mean?"

And so I replied her, asking her if I was being fired. She said no. Just "nothing for me to do at this moment", so I "didn't need to go into office" but of course, I won't be paid and I am free to take on other jobs.

If that is not being fired, I don't know what that is. Seriously. -___-

And then suddenly, just suddenly, I got very angry.

1) How can someone actually fire a person through whatsapp?????

2) She told me that it was not a last minute decision, but why did she choose to break the news to me just one day before I return back to office after Dylan's HFMD episode? It doesn't make sense to me at all.

3) What does the contract I sign with the company mean? It stated very clearly that both parties have to give one month's notice for termination or resignation in the form of writing, but clearly, all I got was a text message.

I felt so bloody unfair.

I felt like I was being marked down because I have a child to tend to and because I couldn't be at work BECAUSE of my child, they decide to terminate me. Not because of my work performance, not because of my professionalism, but simply because I was away for a week to take care of my child when during the interview, I specifically told them that we do not have an alternate caretaker for Dylan.

Regardless, I ended the whatsapp message with a rather, if I may say, professional tone. I told her that I hope the new colleague can do a better job than I did.. and moved on with my life.

I did speak with MOM with regards to getting fired because I had to stay at home to take care of my child but they advised me to do a reconcilation on my own, whether I want a compensation or my one month's pay as per the contract and should that fail, then I get them into the picture.

Haiyah honestly, after speaking with MOM, I just felt like... "WHATEVER LAH." and I chose not to pursue further. I just hope the lady who terminated me will never get married and have a child because if she does, this is the exact shit she will be put through, simply because karma goes one big round. (Not like I've done this to anyone before wtf)


On the 25th of February, almost two weeks after me being terminated, same said woman sent me a whatsapp message again. It said,

"Hi R U interested to come back to XXX?"

Cross my heart, I have REALLY never met anyone who can fire and attempts to hire a person through text messages. It is an entirely new level for me, I don't even know how to react.

Besides, don't you think it is really unprofessional to be doing this? I don't even know how to put it into words... my expression the entire time was just like the meme above. It was just full of wtfs. I decided not to reply her message.

Surely, if she had really wanted me back, a phone call wouldn't die right?

The next day, I DID receive a phone call. It was not from her, but it was from the boss of the company. The gist of the story is this:

Boss didn't know Woman fired me. When Boss came back into office, she wondered why I wasn't around, so she asked Woman. Woman then told Boss that she hired a new colleague and so she fired me. Boss told Woman to get me back, which explains the text I received the day before. Because I didn't reply Woman, she told Boss that I was uncontactable.

I'm sorry but WHAT a half-hearted attempt to contact me, and what a tattle-tale she is to tell the boss that I was uncontactable. What if Boss decided to just leave it be and not call me herself? Would I forever be known as the one who "is difficult to contact"?

Wow. The more I think about her face in my head, the angrier I got. To think that I treated her as a friend when we were there. To think that I was friendly towards her. To think that I shared my experience of random stuff (you know, things you share with friends just for laughs) with her AND THIS IS WHAT SHE DID.

I want to say really mean things right now, but I'm stopping myself. 

Back to the story. So Boss implied that Woman actually fired me on her unknown behalf and she would like to have me back. I told her I had to think about it and the more I thought about it, the more I think I shouldn't go back to this company again.

Asked opinions from my friends and 99% all said they wouldn't go back if they were me either.

How can I work with a company who showed zero empathy when I had a family problem and then fire me at the very opportunity they have? How can I have someone who can actually fire me without the Boss' knowledge and approval? And I also dunno real or not leh, what IF the Boss DID know that I was being fired... and that they decided to hire me back because the new colleague left and they couldn't get anyone in such last minute?

Such a small establishment, SUCH HUGE CONSPIRACY. I don't even know who to trust and believe wtf.

And most importantly, after this entire episode, I can tell you that I'll never see this Woman in the same light again. I am so disgusted with her work ethics, her professionalism and her character and to have me back there to work alongside with her... sorry, I don't think I can do that.

I called Boss the very next day and told her that while I appreciated her call to ask me back to join the company, I regret that it is an opportunity that I would have to turn down. Maybe I'm a bit money-minded lah, but she didn't even try anything more than a "I hope you can reconsider."

Perhaps, if she were to tell me, "Let's negotiate a better employment term. How about that?"

Maybe... just maybe, I may reconsider. But for now, I'm happier doing my own thang.

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  1. i feel you. my kid is turning 3yr old this yr and in the span of 3yrs .. i had 2 job change. coz i needed a job that allows me to pick my kid on time and even now that i am in my new job. i feel embarrassed that i had to leave on the dot :(

    i even when for an interview with a MNC that told me that my commitment (the need to pick my kid after work) is an issue to the organisation's workflow.


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