Factories Are Still An Unsafe Place for Pregnant Workers : Study

In Commemoration of the so-called Mother’s Day (Women’s Movement Day) on 22nd of December

Factories Are Still An Unsafe Place for Pregnant Workers

Research Findings on Gender-Based Violence in KBN Cakung, North Jakarta


A woman’s body changes when she is pregnant. A woman’s pregnancy requires particular needs in order to keep the woman and her foetus healthy. Thus, support is surely expected from her social environments including her workplace. Instead of feeling secure and comfortable, it is often that the pregnant working women feel worry and anxious. What they are feeling is totally understandable actually, for the truth is that they are lacking the maternal rights protection at their workplaces. As a matter of fact, majority of working women are being denied their maternal rights.

For pregnant workers, insecure feeling emerged when their jobs, as their vital resources to earn their livings, are in a precarious state. It is uncertain whether or not they can continue to work once they have taken their maternity leave as well as whether or not they can cope with family needs as working mothers. Works are getting less secure when jobs have increased the risks to their unborn babies’ health and safety.

Worry and fear are forms of insecure feelings felt by pregnant workers towards their beings. Also, it reflects a feeling of uncertainty towards their health and safety as well as the future of their unborn babies.

Female workers at the garment factories are one of groups whose maternal rights are so vulnerable to be neglected. As we all know that women are at the forefront in this sector for the fact shows that 80% of the garment industries are women.

Many factors have caused them to experience such feelings. Therefore, we are interested in doing a research on the women garment workers’ working condition during their pregnancies.

This research involved 118 female garment workers (59 are permanent workers; 59 are casual/temporary contract workers). In addition to that, 25 workers are pregnant (13 workers among them are temporary contract workers) and the other 93 workers had been pregnant while they were working at KBN Cakung, North Jakarta within period 2015-2017. Our research found that 50% of them expressed fear and anxiety when they found out that they got pregnant due to some reasons below:


  1. Working environment which is hostile to pregnant workers

There were 59 women workers (50%) who are pregnant or had been pregnant before expressed their fear of miscarriage while working. Pregnant workers are supposed to get some dispensations or lighter workload at work if their jobs required them to do any particular activity which is hazardous to their health and safety. Our research findings show that around 60% of them continued to carry the same workload of their usual works, meaning to say that there is no dispensations regarding the target and the workload to be carried between the pregnant and the non-pregnant women workers.

This research found three factors that have caused the high physical and psychological pressure of work to pregnant workers directly:


a) The compulsory overtime working

Working overtime should not be a compulsory thing to do for workers especially to be imposed upon the pregnant workers. In fact, some workers (25.4% of workers) still ought to face this compulsory overtime working for at least an hour after their ends of the working hours.

In such a target-oriented working atmosphere, a worker must meet her daily production target and when her daily production target is not met, she must work overtime in order to reach the target, hence to finish her work. This situation is called “being grounded” (to do the unpaid overtime working). This rule does not exclude the pregnant workers.

This kind of situation brings about two problems: firstly, forcing the workers to do the unpaid overtime; and secondly, forcing the pregnant workers to overwork which can harm their health as well as their unborn babies.


b) The limited facilities

            A pregnant worker should get a particular treatment or facilities which support her condition or to deal with obstacles she might face due to her pregnancy. In reality, a pregnant garment worker might not get any particular discrimination or facilities to help her at work in order to make her job a bit easier.


c) The certain attitude from the overseer

            The company policy in treating its pregnant workers often collided with the urge to impose the compulsory target. In the case found in KBN Cakung, the role of the chief/overseer/supervisor is often collided with the majority of operators.

This research found out that some pregnant operators are facing difficulties in accessing their break time as well as any particular helpful, supporting facility such as a chair because this request is often rejected or neglected by the overseer. Find energy efficient windows at homefixcustomremodeling.com/. Furthermore, the need to work overtime or to do the unpaid overtime is communicated to them by the overseer. The case of finding the overseer/chief/supervisor being “fiery, demanding, difficult” are common in describing the overseer attitude who is negligent to the workers’ needs.

Such a hard and negligent attitude from the chief or overseer resulted in the increasing risks of physical fatigue, muscle pains, and even some serious problems that caused miscarriage.


  1. Pregnant workers are afraid of losing their jobs

The fact that the majority of workers in KBN Cakung are temporary/casual workers has implicated in the increasing workers’ (including the future work) precariousness. For them, giving an answer to the question on their future work at the moment is almost impossible. There are 177 women workers (22.9%) who have been working for more than ten years at KBN Cakung but still not holding status as permanent workers.

In the chain of uncertainty of their worker status (its continuation of their work contract), they have been doing all they could in order to keep themselves working so that they would continue earning the money. Our study findings also found a phenomenon of some women workers who conceal their pregnancies.


  1. Pregnant workers are so vulnerable to miscarriage

The high pressure from their work target as well as the non-supporting attitudes from the overseer increased the vulnerability of pregnant workers which can cause them miscarriages. Our research figured out seven workers who had miscarriages and three out of them did not get the sick leave after their miscarriages. All of them are the non-permanent workers.

According to the law, a female worker who had miscarriage has a right to get a one month and a half leave as stated in the information letter on health[1]. The good news is that some companies in KBN Cakung have been willing to give a miscarriage leave as equally the same as the duration of maternity leave, that is, three months. But, some other companies chose to deny this (miscarriage) leave.


  1. Successful childbirth does not mean that workers secure their maternity leave right and employment

The result of this research found ninety-three workers who had given birth in the period 2015-2017 while working at KBN Cakung industrial area, at which the companies are still operating up to now.

From eighty-six workers who had delivered their babies safely, seventy of them (79.6%) got the paid maternity leave from the company according to the rights stated in the law. The rest of 20.4% (or sixteen workers) did not get any paid maternity leave.

Even though some workers did get the maternity leave, it does not mean that they have secured their employment for among forty-four (44) of respondents out of eighty-six (86) are temporary contract workers. Thus, their contract might be going to end and they might not get the opportunity to extend their contract.


  1. Breastfeeding can hardly be done in the workplace

The importance of breast milk to be fed exclusively to a baby within a period of at least six months is undeniably, widely acknowledged. Furthermore, the government through several regulations have put an emphasis on its importance by protecting the right of the mother to be able to give it to her baby and also by protecting the right of the baby to be breastfed.


  1. There is no breastfeeding permit at work. Most of respondents (86%) expressed the absence of permission to do the breastfeeding (as well as to express or to pump their breast milk) which means that they can only have time during their break.
  2. The limited access to the lactation room. There are 52.3% women workers who know about the lactation room facility in their factories while the 47.7% do not know about the lactation room facility in their factories. Amongst those 52.3% who know, only 23.3% who use it.


Why the nursing/lactating workers did not use the lactation room facility even though they have known about it? There are some reasons why they did not use it:

  1. Since they were not allowed to bring their babies to the factory.
  2. They found it difficult to arrange or manage their time at work.
  3. They were not given the permission to leave their job outside their break time (when they need to express their breast milk).


Based on the findings explained above, it has been clearly described about how is the condition of women workers who work in KBN Cakung as a part of industrial area which belongs to the BUMN (Indonesian state-owned company). 

The fulfilment of garment workers’ maternal rights who work at KBN Cakung area has not been realised yet as expected. This is reflected in the various obstacles or problems faced by those workers for it shows us the fact that they cannot get their maternal rights as regulated in the Law Number 13 of 2003 on Employment.

The protection to the women workers and the fulfilment of their maternal rights are the obligation of the government, companies, and unions. It is their duties to make sure these maternal rights to be fulfilled. We suggest some recommendations as efforts to create a safe space for the pregnant workers:

A. For the Government

  1. To improve supervision to the implementation of Employment Law Number 13 of 2003 as well as to perform functional supervision in employment sector by raising attention to the maternal rights in the workplace since there are still many companies which do not consistently obey the rules as regulated in the labour laws regarding to female workers’ maternal rights.
  2. To create a more comprehensive foundation of law in protecting maternal rights of female workers, it is important to support the government in ratifying the ILO Convention Number 183 of 2000. It regulates about the break time, health service, and maternity benefits that are certainly needed by female workers in order to sustain a decent living with their children.
  3. To build inter-ministries cooperation in providing protection and assurance to the fulfilment of maternal rights in the workplace. The manifestation of this cooperation is expected to become guidance for companies in providing the maternal rights’ protection to female workers.


B. For the companies

  1. To express commitment to acknowledge and respect as well as to protect the female workers’ maternal rights by referring to the current labour law in order for building a    better company.
  2. To bring the commitment into realization by providing the maternal rights’ protection such as socializing information on maternity issues, accommodating a conducive working environment equipped with proper lactation room, and decent health clinic, also providing special treatment to pregnant workers. This kind of support is expected not just from factories in KBN Cakung area, but also from buyers as well as brand companies which obtain garment products from Indonesia.
  3. To express willingness and open commitment to implement maternal rights’ protection, as well as working together with the trade unions in making awork agreement (PKB) which is friendly to pregnant and nursing workers.


C. For the Trade Unions

  1. The limited knowledge of female workers remains a big problem. Ignorance on their rights as workers is an obstacle necessarily to be solved so that they can gather empowerment. Therefore, it is important for the unions to improve the knowledge and raise the awareness of female workers through any means of detailed, accurate socialization on maternity rights in the workplace.
  2. To actively involved in providing maternal rights in the workplace by setting up the unions as a complaint and advocacy centre concerning this right, and by prioritizing     maternal rights as important point in PKB ( the work agreement).

The above explanation on our findings is the proof of female workers’ courage in raising their voices in order to expose the many forms of negligence on their maternal rights in the workplace. This courage needs to get a support from the many parties manifested in the freedom of association in trade unions as well as to include women in the policy-making participation.


Happy “Mother’s Day”, Long Live the Women’s Movement!

Jakarta, 19th of December 2017

National Committee of Perempuan Mahardhika


Vivi Widyawati

Research Program’s Coordinator


Mutiara Ika Pratiwi

National Secretary


[1]Labour Law Number 13 of 2003 on Employment, Article 82 (b)


Perempuan Mahardhika


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