Empowering new mothers through Employee Assistance Programmes

By Ruhaya Hussin

The introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1969 played a crucial role in increasing the labour force participation of women in Malaysia and led to an increase in dual-earner families. However, despite being in the labour force, Malaysian women continue to bear the primary responsibility for housework and childcare. The persistent imbalance between work and family responsibilities contributes to the build-up of negative emotions and tensions, which significantly affects the psychological well-being of working women.

After marriage and the birth of a child or children, women struggle so much that some stop working altogether when they have young children, while some have resigned themselves to staying at home and find it difficult to return to paid work once their children are grown up. Others work full-time and rarely see their babies who spend more time in daycare than with their own parents. Some mothers work multiple jobs and rely on family or friends for childcare, but still struggle to make ends meet.

The statistics highlight an increase in the proportion of women in the labour force, which has risen from 30.8 percent in 1957 to 56.2 percent in 2023, indicating a significant increase. It is undeniable that women are struggling with the difficult balancing act of managing both their work and family commitments. This emphasises how important it is for organisations to actively work on empowering them. One effective way to do this is through the implementation of the Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP).

The EAP is a strategic initiative aimed at ensuring the well-being of both employees and the organisations they serve. It includes workplace-based programmes that are explicitly tailored to help organisations address productivity issues while identifying and resolving personal problems that may hinder optimal work performance. With this in mind, organisations are encouraged to take a proactive stance in supporting women, particularly new mothers in the workplace, by focusing on R2O initiatives: return-to-work programme, on-site childcare facilities and on-site breastfeeding facilities.

A return-to-work programme is crucial to provide a seamless transition for female employees returning to work from maternity leave and to create a supportive environment for their reintegration into the workplace. It is important to implement a well-structured return-to-work programme that is specifically tailored to enable a smooth transition for women returning to work after maternity leave. Creating a supportive environment is not just about logistics, but also about fostering a workplace culture and atmosphere that understands and addresses the unique needs and challenges of women returning to work.

At the same time, the provision of on-site childcare facilities removes an important barrier for working mothers, allowing them to fulfil their work commitments while caring for the well-being of their children. The provision of on-site childcare facilities is an important measure that also removes a significant barrier for working mothers, which often hinders the seamless integration of work and caring responsibilities. It enables working mothers to fulfil their professional obligations while caring for their children. On-site childcare is not only about facilitating work responsibilities, but also about promoting a family-friendly environment that supports the overall well-being of employees and their families.

Last but not least, the provision of on-site breastfeeding facilities promotes a conducive atmosphere for new working mothers so that they can manage their work and family commitments effectively and efficiently. The provision of on-site breastfeeding facilities is an important initiative as it creates a supportive and inclusive working environment for new mothers. In this way, organisations are helping to create a supportive atmosphere that enables new mothers to manage their work and family commitments more effectively and efficiently. By recognising the needs of new mothers in the workplace, organisations are highlighting the importance of family-friendly policies to improve the well-being and retention of their employees.

By prioritising R2O initiatives within the EAP, organisations are not only acknowledging the evolving dynamics of the modern workforce but are also actively helping to promote an inclusive and supportive organisational culture. This strategic focus on work-life enrichment not only promotes women’s professional well-being, but also positions organisations as proactive champions of inclusivity in the workplace.

(Dr. Ruhaya Hussin has recently been promoted to Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia. Congratulations from IIUM Today!)