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HR Ministry encourages GLCs, private firms to introduce menstrual leave policy

KUALA LUMPUR: Government-linked companies (GLCs) and private firms in Malaysia are encouraged to implement menstrual leave policy on their own without waiting for the government to legislate it, said the Human Resources Ministry.

The ministry said establishments with collective agreements could also initiate negotiations with their trade unions to incorporate such policy into their collective agreements.

However, as a whole, the ministry noted that it will need to do an in-depth study to ascertain the pros and cons of legislating this matter, taking into account the appropriate mechanisms need to be put in place to smoothly implement this policy at company level to avoid any misuse or pitfalls.

"On this, the ministry needs to engage with the employers and workers associations before making any decisions. Discussion with other relevant ministries would also need to be done," the Human Resources Ministry said in a written reply to the New Straits Times.

The ministry was responding to questions on whether Malaysia could follow in the foot steps of Spain and other countries like Indonesia, Japan and South Korea in introducing a national menstrual leave policy .

The ministry further noted that though enacting a law to regulate entitlement of menstrual leave in the private sector could be seen as a progressive move by the government to enhance women's rights at the workplace, authorities have to be wary if this could instead have any adverse effect on the employment opportunities for women.

"The Human Resources Ministry is following keenly the on-going debate and developments in several countries with regard to enacting laws to regulate menstrual leave policy for female employees in the private sector.

"It is known that several countries have some form of legislations to regulate this matter, either as a paid leave or unpaid leave ranging from one to two days in a month. In most other countries, menstrual leave is implemented on a company to company basis.

"The ministry is also aware of the findings of an online poll (conducted by the NST) recently which shows 87 per cent of 1,177 people polled preferred an adoption of a menstrual leave policy in Malaysia.

"While the ministry appreciates the outcome of this poll, we must not immediately come to a decision to implement this as a part of the law.

"As such, the ministry will need to do an in-depth study," the written response read.

The ministry added that for now, pending the outcome of further study and engagements with stakeholders, it encourages companies to implement menstrual leave policy on their own instead of waiting for the government to legislate it.

"Perhaps, as a start, GLCs in Malaysia could also implement menstrual policy at their organisations as part of their best practices.

"The ministry also encourages those establishments with collective agreements to negotiate with their trade unions to incorporate such policy in their collective agreements."

Meanwhile, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun said the ministry welcomes any initiative that supports women's welfare and wellbeing.

 

However, the matter on menstrual leave, she said requires changes in policies and further discussion between stakeholders as well as evaluation of the Public Service Department and Human Resources Ministry is needed.

She further shared that the National Reproductive and Social Health Policy and Action Plan under the Women's Ministry focuses on sexual and reproductive health education (SRHE) to raise awareness of individuals, families and communities on the importance of reproductive health and social education.

"Menstrual health is one of the components of SRHE education and the programmes under this policy also indirectly support menstrual health in the community.

"The #HygieneKit mooted by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) supports B40 girls affected by the pandemic by providing basic hygiene products and sharing knowledge on cleanliness, reproductive health and well-being of the community, including menstrual health.

"It also aims to enhance the awareness on sexual and reproductive health in the community especially among adolescent girls," she added.

Experts and working women in Malaysia have recently called on the government to look into enacting national menstrual leave policy.

While the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) had said menstrual leave should be given separately and not included in the sick leave as a whole, the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) opined that menstrual leave would cast women as less able than men and could lead to further discrimination against female employees in the workplace, potentially threatening their employment.

MEF president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman had on May 23 said businesses that want to introduce menstrual leave should consult with their employees in order to design a suitable policy which is "established genuinely and with the understanding that female employees' needs based on menstruation can be addressed on a case-by-case basis."

Read more on menstrual health and the call for menstrual leave in Malaysia:

Menstrual leave for women workforce in Malaysia: A boon or bane?

'Menstrual leave, not an admission of weakness'

Experts call on government to look into menstrual leave policy

NST poll: Instagrammers vote 'Yes' for national menstrual leave policy

PBM calls on government to consider menstrual leave for women

Menstrual disorders not uncommon, but why?

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