Employment Act amendment to cover all discrimination, including hotel ban on headscarves, says ministry

The proposed amendments to the Employment Act 1955 will address all types of discrimination at the workplace. — Reuters file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — The proposed amendments to the Employment Act 1955 will address all types of discrimination at the workplace, said the Human Resources Ministry in a statement to Malay Mail.

Following outrage over the hotel industy’s ban on female front-liner staff members wearing headscarves, the ministry has proposed a provision that will prohibit any form of discrimination by an employer.

The ministry said the current provisions in the Act under Section 60 L only disallow any form of discrimination in the workplace between local workers and foreign labourers.

“In regards to the scope of application of the proposed provision, the term ‘employer’ applies to all under the Act,” said the ministry.

Under the proposed amendment, the labour director-general may inquire into any complaint by an employee over an employer practising discrimination in relations to the terms and conditions of employment.

“The director-general may issue such directives to the employer should it be necessary or to resolve the matter,” said the ministry.

The ministry said it will continue to make amendments to labour laws in accordance with the fundamentals of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Declaration 1998 on labour principles and rights, as initially agreed by the Cabinet.

The ministry added that the amendments to the labour laws would also be done on the basis of improving the benefits and welfare of employees, which would indirectly increase the competitiveness and productivity of companies.

At present, the Act provides minimum terms and conditions to employees who earn RM2,000 and below, employed in manual work including artisan, apprentice, transport operator, supervisors or overseers of manual workers, persons employed on vessels, and domestic workers, including those earning more than RM2,000 monthly wages.

However, the director-general, under Section 69(1)(a) may inquire complaints and decide any dispute between a worker and his employer from employees with monthly salary of between RM2,000 and RM5,000.

On Saturday, its minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem said the proposal to amend the act was made following a discussion on Decembe 5 last year, which involved ministries as well as related agencies, including the Tourism and Culture Ministry, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia and Malaysian Employers Federation.

Through inspections and investigations by the Labour Department of Peninsular Malaysia (JTKSM) on 74 four-and-five-star hotels in Pahang, Johor, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya since last November, it was learned that 13 hotels adopted the no-headscarf policy during working hours while the remaining 61 did not set any policy on the matter.

Meanwhile a Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) survey last August found that one in eight pregnant women had lodged formal complaints due to discrimination faced at work.

The “Workplace Discrimination Survey” that polled 222 women, found pregnant women who were dismissed or overlooked for promotions, had not spoken up against discrimination as they were not aware of their rights or feared reprisals.