[Exclusive] Fair deal for employeesNovember 26, 2017 @ 12:37PM
By JULIA FIONA
KUALA LUMPUR: A MAJOR overhaul of the Employment Act 1955 is being carried out to ensure that employees are better protected.
Amendments to the more than six-decade-old act may see current practices in the employment market being purged, including denial of overtime pay if workers failed to clock in the minimum hours.
Experts drawing up the changes are also including paternity leave, of which the act makes no mention. And, best of all, they are planning to increase the annual and sick leave entitlements.
On the issue of workers being undercompensated for extra work hours, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem told the New Sunday Times that the amendments would make sure employers fairly paid those who were asked to stay back.
This includes employees earning above RM2,000 a month.
The Human Resources Ministry also said the planned amendments would also largely focus on the rights of executive employees.
“It is clearly spelt out under the law that employees shall be compensated adequately for any extra work performed.
“ Section 60A (3) of the act says that any worker who is required to work extra hours is entitled to overtime payment.”
But many employees have raised the issue of employers imposing all sorts of requirements, such as working at least two hours to claim half an overtime shift, or four hours for a full shift.
If the time put in by workers do not meet the minimum hours, the extra work will be considered “complimentary” to the company.
However, Riot said it was against the law for companies to set minimum hours for overtime.
“Based on the law, workers who commit to even half an hour of extra work are eligible for overtime payment.
“The Labour Department is the best place for workers to highlight cases of ‘ill-treatment’ by employers. Once our officers recognise the issue, the employers in question will be reminded of the law that they must follow. If the ‘mistreatment’ continues, they will be hauled up to the labour or industrial court,” Riot said.
His deputy, Datuk Seri Ismail Abdul Muttalib, said there were two categories of employees
protected under the Employment Act — the “executive” and “non-executive” workers earning above and below RM2,000, respectively.
“Our biggest concern is the welfare of low-level executive employees, who are prone to be ‘compelled’ by their bosses to put in numerous extra hours,” Ismail said.
Section 60A (1)(d) of the Employment Act states that unless under certain exceptions, “an employee shall not be required under his contract of service to work more than 48 hours a week”.
In simple terms, it means employees who are contracted to honour eight hours a day for five days a week, can put in two hours of overtime a day as long as it does not exceed 48 hours a week.
A maximum of 12 hours’ work a day, with four being overtime, is allowed only under the following five circumstances:
WHEN there is an accident, actual or threatened, in/or with respect to his place of work;
WHEN the work is essential to the life of the community;
WHEN the work is essential for the country’s defence or security;
WHEN urgent work needs to be done to machinery or plants; or,
WHEN there is an interruption of work, which is impossible to foresee.
The ministry, Riot said, would ensure that any amendments to the existing act were done in the spirit of fairness to employers and employees.
He said in creating the best legislation for the workplace, experts had been studying the situation for the past two years.
Once in place, employers will gain immensely from the productivity of employees who are mentally and physically fit.
“When we first started to review the law, we agreed that many aspects of it could be improved.
“A more healthy set of working hours by employers, for instance, will prevent mental health issues from developing at the workplace and, at the same time, promote productivity among workers.
“Employees, on the other hand, will have a good work-life balance in a healthy working environment, which promotes their wellbeing,” he said.
‘Workers must raise issues that bug them to their bosses’
Suicidal thoughts, palpitations, increased heartbeat and cold shivers.
These are symptoms of mental health problems experienced by Malaysians in the job market.
An expert studying the trend said a majority of wage earners were grappling with the symptoms triggered by, among others, multiple work commitments, incompetence, unsupportive co-workers and unfair employers.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) psychologist and criminologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat said workers would develop chronic stress if their issues were not resolved speedily.
“Sudden changes in responsibilities, conflict with colleagues, work hazards and unsafe working conditions are also contributing to the development of mental health issues.
“From a physiological perspective, extremely long working hours are unhealthy as it directly impacts cognitive ability, motor skills, judgment abilities, communication and physical health.
“The symptoms of work-related stress varies and they can be identified through the workers’ physical and emotional condition, the way they socialise, as well as their performance,” she said
Women, Family and Community Development director-general Datuk Yatimah Sarjiman said workers should not hesitate to seek counselling when facing stress.
“We at the ministry always encourage workers to visit the Women’s Development Department (JPW) to get treatment from professional counsellors.
“If their stress issues are prolonged, their wellbeing may be badly affected”.
Yatimah also said workers must bring up the issues that were causing stress at the workplace to the attention of their bosses so they could be resolved.
“I believe employers want the best for their employees, so discussion between these two parties is essential,” she said.
The Human Resources Ministry had introduced the Health Security Programme under the Social Security Organisation (Socso), where insured workers could seek free treatment for their mental health problems.
The ministry had set up a panel of 36 doctors nationwide for Malaysian workers to seek counselling if they needed help in coping with depression.