News: Employers: ‘Bad time’ to enforce new workers’ housing law

Sep 7, 2020

Malaysia’s biggest employers’ group has called on the government not to enforce the amended Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990, saying that bosses were not given adequate time to comply with such law. 

Moreover, bosses are already facing cash flow issues such that enforcing compliance may see bosses resorting to cost-cutting measures, such as retrenching workers, reported Free Malaysia Today (FMT).

“It’s a bad time to enforce costly regulations. Employers are having cash flow problems to the extent of relying on the Wage Subsidy Programme to keep afloat,” Malaysian Employers Federation Executive Director Shamsuddin Bardan told FMT.

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He noted that the specific requirements that employers would have to comply with were only published on 28 August, which is less than a week prior to the effectivity of the amended law.

“The law was passed last year but the details were not available earlier. This includes specifics like the thickness of an employee’s mattress needs to be four inches…So, if you had bought a new mattress for your employee a few weeks ago and it was only 3.5 inches thick, you would not be complying with these new regulations,” he said.

“To expect employers to comply with the laws within days borders on the ridiculous.”

Shamsuddin added that the amended law also contained a lot of “unfriendly” details, such as charging employers processing fees.

“What is the point of having an administrator (the government) who charges fees for processing applications from employers? The government shouldn’t be charging to process applications from employers.”

He sees no sense for the government to enforce such costly law to employers at a time when they are implementing initiatives such as Prihatin and Penjana to help companies.

“What we need is time to comply and this would depend on the economy,” he said as quoted by FMT.

“Not all employers house their workers in poor living conditions. Apply some discretion. Just because the living conditions of some do not meet the specific regulations, it doesn’t mean they are unliveable.”

Shamsuddin explained that what is important is that the accommodations provided to workers are not hazardous or dirty and equipped with basic amenities as well as allow for the COVID-19 SOPs to be observed.

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) had previously called for the swift enforcement of the amended law, which took effect on 1 September.

 

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