Today, Dewan Rakyat approved the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021. The bill aimed to further safeguard workers' wellbeing and enhance their protection against discrimination.
Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Awang Hashim tabled the bill for its second reading. He stated the Employment Act will take effect in Labuan and Peninsular Malaysia.
The proposed amendment includes 46 clauses, involving 28 amended clauses, ten new clauses, and six repealed clauses.
Awang said that the primary objective of the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 is to improve and increase the welfare and protection of workers in this country. The bill also aims to ensure that the provisions of Malaysia's labour laws are in line with the international labour standards as summarised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Amendments to the Employment Act include:
Allowing employees to request flexible working arrangements from their employers, which depends on the suitability of the work duration and workplace.
Extending the employees' maternity leave from 90 to 98 days.
Married male employees now get a seven-day paid paternity leave for each birth, with a maximum of five. The paternity leave is also irrespective of the male employee's number of spouses. The employee must be working with the same employer for at least 12 months to be eligible.
Employers are now prohibited from terminating female employees who are pregnant or suffering from conditions arising out of their pregnancy, EXCEPT on grounds related to misconduct, wilful employment contract breach, or business closure.
Under the new Section 90B, an employer who threatens, deceives or forces an employee to do any work and prevent them from leaving their place of work is committing a forced labour offence. The employer can be fined RM100,000 maximum or imprisoned for up to two years or both.
The law now requires employers to display notices at the workplace to increase awareness on sexual harassment.
The maternity leave is now extended to 98 days.
Higher penalties for offences under Employment Act
The bill also saw higher penalties for violations under the act, with maximum fine penalties increased from RM10,000 to RM50,000.
The current punishment of a fine initially capped at RM50,000 is further raised to RM100,000.
Part VIII (Employment of Women) repealed
The government also repealed Part VIII of the Employment Act, which contains specific provisions for women working at night and underground.
Part VIII was also suggested to be repealed to deliver equal treatment and protection to women and men workers per the relevant ILO Conventions, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1998 (No. 111).
Awang Hashim said the increase in paternity leave allowed more space for men workers to handle family matters after welcoming their newborn.
He also said that the government had taken note of the recommendations by MPs to increase paternity leave to seven days instead of the three days originally proposed under the Bill.
The deputy minister stated that the amendments were aimed at contract workers, and the government is considering specific laws to protect those employed in the gig economy.
Sources: NST, Malay Mail, The Star