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MOHR Pledges To Expand Employment Act Coverage For All Workers

MOHR “guarantees” that the minister’s order to amend the First Schedule – which defines employees as those earning RM2,000 or less a month – will be in effect simultaneously with the amended Employment Act on a date that will be decided in due course.

Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan in Parliament. Picture from Datuk Seri M Saravanan's Facebook page posted on March 17, 2022.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 – The Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) today reiterated it would gazette a ministerial order for the Employment Act to cover all employees, beyond workers earning RM2,000 or less a month.

MOHR said the Employment amendment Bill 2021 – which is currently in the Dewan Negara after passage in the Lower House – needed to repeal several provisions in the Employment Act 1955 (Act 265) that touch on wage ceilings because of the government’s aim to expand coverage of the labour law to all workers irrespective of their earnings, “subject to certain conditions”.

Among the contested provisions repealed in the amendment Bill were Section 44A and Section 81G that extended paid maternity leave and workplace sexual harassment protections to employees regardless of their wage levels.

“A subsequent amendment to the First Schedule of Act 265 must be made via an order as per the Human Resources Minister’s powers under Section 2(2) of Act 265 to enable all workers in this country to get the minimum benefits and protections provided for under Act 265,” MOHR said in a statement today.

“The Ministry has already prepared a draft order to amend the First Schedule and guarantees that that order will be in effect simultaneously with the date of effect of the Employment amendment Bill 2021 on a date that will be decided in due course.”

However, MOHR did not specify the contents of the draft minister’s order. The Employment amendment Bill empowers the minister to set a different date for provisions to come into effect from when the law is gazetted.

The First Schedule of the Employment Act currently defines employees – who are eligible for benefits and protections under the labour legislation – as those whose wages do not exceed RM2,000 a month.

Ova previously reported that more than an estimated three million women earning above RM2,000 a month would lose legal entitlement to any paid maternity leave and protections from workplace sexual harassment, due to the repeal of Section 44A and Section 81G that respectively extended these benefits to employees irrespective of their earnings.

Previously, all women workers were entitled to a minimum of 60 days’ full-pay maternity leave.

Chan Quin Er, a lawyer and an MCA central committee member, also expressed concern today that the entitlement to paid maternity leave for women earning more than RM2,000 a month would be in jeopardy after the amendment Bill is passed by Parliament and gazetted, pending the minister’s order to amend or lift the wage cap.

The Employment amendment Bill raised full-pay maternity leave from 60 days to 98 days, besides introducing a new provision on seven-day paternity leave for married male employees. Women workers also would be protected from termination on the basis of pregnancy.

Pending the minister’s order, all of these benefits will only be available for those earning RM2,000 or less a month.

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