Pregnant woman (illustrative) .
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
More than 250 women complained of discrimination in the workplace last year because of pregnancy, Equal Opportunities Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair told a joint meeting of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee and Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women on Tuesday.
Koenig-Yair presented her annual report to the committees, which also discussed discrimination against young mothers in the job market and workplace.
The Equal Opportunities Commission received 781 complaints in 2014, 122 fewer than in 2013, but 64 percent of them were from women. A third of the complaints had to do with pregnancy, 10% were about ageism, 7% about reserve duty, 6% religion, 6% nationality, and 5% parenting. The commission dealt with 19 legal cases and proceedings in 2014, some of which are still ongoing.
“The government of Israel has insufficiently raised the banner of equal opportunities,” Koenig-Yair lamented.
“With the resources we have, we cannot take care of all problems, but I think we should deal with three times as many cases.”
Koenig-Yair said she feels that many women in the workplace are treated like “walking wombs,” and that employers need to change their perception.
Working mothers shared their stories with the committee, including one woman who said that when she became pregnant, her boss yelled at her that she was ruining her work. While the woman was on maternity leave, the workplace told her they had found a replacement for her.
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) told the committee that her daughter, a medical resident, was required to sign a statement that she would not get pregnant for a year.
“The discrimination is mostly hidden, so the laws are emptied of content,” MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) said.
“Research shows that every child a woman bears lowers her salary, which then lowers her pension.”
MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) said Arab women are less aware of their rights and are afraid of being fired, because they do not have enough work opportunities. As such, the commission should make surprise visits to workplaces.
Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee chairman Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) said that, as an employer, he is always happy when his workers become pregnant.
“There are good things that happen, too. Not every employer is deterred from hiring women. This isn’t a fight just for women, but for our whole society,” he stated.
Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women chairwoman Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) responded that many employers hire women only at certain ages and marital status.
She called for the government to increase the Equal Opportunities Commission’s budget.