THE Association for Community and Dialogue welcomes the proposed amendments to the Employment Act 1955, which was tabled for the first reading at the Dewan Rakyat in October, and the second reading is expected for three days starting December 16.
While we welcome the government initiative to meet international labour law standards, we are quite concerned that issues related to a new section 69F regarding discrimination in employment. The proposed section 1 states:
“The director-general may enquire into and decide upon any dispute between an employee and his employer with respect to any matter relating to discrimination in employment, and the director-general may, pursuant to the decision, make an order.”
It seems that what constitutes discrimination is based on the subjective understanding of the director-general, employers and employees.
It depends heavily on the discretion of the director-general to mediate issues that could end up in disagreement, rather than provide an in depth understanding of what constitutes a worker’s human dignity and how discrimination violates this principle.
The amendment lacks objectivity in meeting higher labour standards when it fails to spell out in a reasonable broader term of what constitutes discrimination.
For an example, would humiliating an employee in front of his or her colleagues, to force a resignation, be construed as discrimination?
Are we addressing issues like violence and harassment at the workplace?
What about transferring a member of staff to another department without consent or demoting a member of staff without appropriate reason or due cause?
What about the ethnic discrimination of wanting a certain race to work in a particular department?
The issues mentioned above are real issues of discrimination in the Malaysian context that go to the very core of what it means to protect the dignity of the workforce, while at same time ensuring that employers benefit from a fair and equitable eco-system that nurtures human capital development.
Therefore, the association urges the Human Resources Ministry to create an objective criterion on discrimination in the amendment of the employment act that would create a preventive culture against this problem, rather that reactive culture of subjectivity that would depend on the continuous interpretation of courts on what constitutes discrimination. – December 6, 2021.