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Title: Pregnancy-related unfavorable behavior in the workplace: an analysis of women’s experiences through the lens of the psychological contract
Authors: Valgaeren, Elke 
Lembrechts, Lieve 
Issue Date: 2010
Source: Equal is not enough, Antwerp, 1-3 December 2010
Abstract: This qualitative study examines working women’s negative interpretations of their employers’ and colleagues’ behaviors towards their pregnancy through the lens of the psychological contract. Different from the existing studies, which document experienced unfavorable behavior and examine women’s strategies to cope with it, we examine the reasons why women perceive certain behaviors as illegitimate. To do so, we analyze women’s perceived unfavorable behavior as psychological contract breaches, that is, the belief that one's organization has failed to adequately meet one or more promises within the employment relation. We examine how such breaches lead to psychological contract violation, or the feelings of betrayal, resentment and a sense of injustice, and to negative attitudes towards the employer. Based on the analysis of qualitative data collected through two focus groups with 15 Belgian women who recently had a child while active in the labor market, we identify five types of unmet promises leading to psychological contract breaches concerning: 1) safety regulation for mother and child; 2) compliance with maternity leave and vacation regulation; 3) accommodating the pregnancy and maternity leave as foreseen by the law; 4) psychological pressure to avoid pregnancies and to feel guilty about maternity leave; 5) lack of understanding for complications surrounding the pregnancy. Taken together, these breaches drew women’s attention to the instrumental and unequal nature of the employment relation, causing violations and leading them to change jobs, stop working extra hours, stay at home, and exiting paid work altogether.
Keywords: pregnancy; discrimination; motherhood; gender; employment
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Category: C2
Type: Conference Material
Appears in Collections:Research publications

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