KUALA LUMPUR – The National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) has highlighted a number of areas of concern pertaining to the proposed amendments to the Employment Act 1955, which is set to be passed this month.
This includes subjects of employment discrimination, flexible working arrangement, forced labour, and sexual harassment.
As such, NUBE secretary-general J. Solomon is calling on Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan to seek feedback from worker unions before the second reading of the bill in the current Dewan Rakyat sitting.
On the issue of discrimination, Solomon noted that the proposed amendment only relates to subsisting employment relationship, meaning pre-employment discrimination, which will not be taken into account.
He added that there is also no definition of discrimination and protected characteristics, and that if the amendment is passed, this means the scope of discrimination will be very wide and will have to be developed by the courts or on a case-to-case basis.
Solomon also bemoaned the fact that the bill does not specify on what remedies employees are entitled to in the event of discrimination.
In respect of a new provision on flexible working arrangement, Solomon noted that the amendment does not state what avenue is available to employees if the employers refuse to grant approval.
“There is no provision to state that the employee can lodge a complaint to the Labour Department over the refusal,” he said in a statement today.
The new Section 60P, which was proposed for inclusion in the Employment Act in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, only states that bosses have to give approval or refusal within 60 days of an application to vary the hours and place of work, and that the employers must state grounds for the decision.
Solomon also took issue with the proposed introduction of a new Section 90B, noting the definition of forced labour is only limited to just situations of “threatening, deceiving and forcing an employee”.
Instead, he said it should be made to include all the indicators as stated by the International Labour Organisation, which include debt bondage, withholding of wages, retention of identity documents and excessive overtime, among others.
“Also under the proposed amendments, employers can no longer refuse to inquire into any complaint of sexual harassment…But, there are no specifics pertaining to what this ‘notice’ must state about workplace sexual harassment and it can be abused to protect the perpetrators instead of the victims.”
The Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 was tabled for the first reading before Parliament on October 25. The second reading, which will see the bill debated and passed, is expected later this month. – The Vibes, December 4, 2021