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Dewan Rakyat Approves Amendments To Employment Act To Extend Maternity & Paternity Leave

The new bill is aimed at better safeguarding worker well-being in the country.

Cover image via Bernama/Malay Mail & Malay Mail

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The Dewan Rakyat approved the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 with majority vote on Monday, 21 March, which is aimed at better safeguarding worker well-being in the country

During the second reading of the bill, Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Awang Hashim said the amendments to the Employment Act 1955 (Act 265) will come in force in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan.

The proposed amendments involve 46 clauses, which include 28 amended clauses, 10 new clauses, and six repealed clauses.

"The main objective of the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 is to increase and improve the protection and welfare of workers in the country," he said, according to New Straits Times.

"The bill also seeks to ensure that the provisions of national labour laws are in line with international labour standards as outlined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO)."

Amendments to the act include extending employees' maternity leave from 60 to 98 days and paternity leave from three to seven days

The act also prohibits termination of female employees who are pregnant or suffering from illness arising from pregnancy, except on grounds relating to misconduct, wilful breach of the employment contract, or closure of business.

A new clause under the act also allows employees to apply for flexible working arrangements from their employers, depending on the suitability of working hours, working days, and workplace.

When winding up the debate on the bill, Bernama reported Awang Hashim clarifying that the paternity leave will be limited to only five births, irrespective of the number of spouses, and will take effect from the day of birth.

The bill also sees higher penalties for offences under the act, with maximum fines raised from RM10,000 to RM50,000, and introduces a new offence called forced labour

Under a new section, Section 90B states that forced labour occurs when any employer threatens, deceives, or forces their employees to carry out any activity, service, or work and prevents the employee from leaving before the activity, service, or work is done.

Errant employers may be fined up to RM100,000, imprisoned for up to two years, or both, under the offence, said Awang Hashim.

The government also repealed Part VIII of the Employment Act 1955, which contained provisions prohibiting women from working at night or in underground works, to prevent discrimination.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob recently announced that Malaysia will implement a new RM1,500 minimum wage starting 1 May:

Here are more stories about Malaysia's existing labour laws to better understand our rights as employees: