Case Update: Relevant issues when an employer uses financial difficulties as a reason for retrenchment

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In this Case Update series, I share summaries of recent Malaysian court decisions to explore the current approach taken by the courts when deciding on employment-related issues. You can find all the posts in the series by clicking here, including case updates on other legal areas by TheMalaysianLawyer co-founder Lee Shih.

As explained in an earlier article (What you need to know about the law on retrenchment of employees), the basic legal position in Malaysia in relation to retrenchments is clear and settled: It is the prerogative of the management to decide on the reorganisation of it business, and the courts will not intervene unless it is shown that the employer’s decision was not in good faith.

One of the accepted reasons for a retrenchment is where the business is experiencing financial difficulties, or where a reorganisation of the workforce is deemed necessary to increase efficiency or cut costs.

What are the factors to be considered when assessing whether cost-effectiveness or financial reasons are sufficient to constitute a genuine reason for retrenching employees?

The Industrial Court considered this in Mohd Azhan Ariffin v. Ranhill Berhad (Award No. 920 of 2017). The claimant (Employee) was retrenched, and paid retrenchment benefits, on the basis that the respondent (Employer) could no longer sustain him in the business due to financial constraints.

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Case Update: Can an employee bring an unfair dismissal claim after accepting a severance payment?

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In this Case Update series, I share summaries of recent Malaysian court decisions to explore the current approach taken by the courts when deciding on employment-related issues. You can find all the posts in the series by clicking here, including case updates on other legal areas by TheMalaysianLawyer co-founder Lee Shih.

Malaysian employment law is relatively pro-employee when it comes to termination of employment. Based on the fundamental principle of security of tenure, any termination by an employer must be with just cause. In practice, just cause can sometimes be difficult to establish.

To avoid having to establish just cause — and to terminate an employment relationship without being exposed to the risk of an unfair dismissal claim — many employers opt to negotiate a mutual separation with the employee.

Typically, some form of monetary compensation (and sometimes other terms as well) is negotiated between the parties, and documented in a mutual separation agreement. The agreement will usually contain a clause to the effect that the employee confirms that the separation package and terms are in full settlement of any claims the employee may have, and that the employee will not bring an unfair dismissal claim.

So what happens where a mutual separation agreement is signed, and the employer makes the agreed compensation payment, but the employee then proceeds to file an unfair dismissal claim?

The relevant legal principles were recently considered by the Industrial Court in Raul Fabrizio Casserini v. George Fischer (M) Sdn Bhd [2017] 3 ILR.

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Case Update: Employer’s poor handling of workplace assault and harassment complaints amounts to constructive dismissal

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In this Case Update series, I share summaries of recent Malaysian court decisions to explore the current approach taken by the courts when deciding on employment-related issues. You can find all the posts in the series by clicking here, including case updates on other legal areas by TheMalaysianLawyer co-founder Lee Shih.

Most employers are now aware of the importance of having clear policies and processes when it comes to handling complaints and disciplinary issues. It’s the norm for businesses hiring a reasonable number of employees to have in place various codes of conduct, guidelines, and policies.

Despite this, an employer that receives an employee complaint and acts on it could still be at risk of being deemed to have breached the terms and conditions of employment, or severed the employment relationship, due to shortcomings in how the complaint was handled.

The Industrial Court recently considered these issues in Justin Maurice Read v. Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) (Award No. 965 of 2017). In this case, the claimant (the Employee) had complained of being assaulted and harassed in the workplace. The Employee then claimed that the manner in which these complaints were handled by the company (the Employer) entitled him to claim to have been constructively dismissed.

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Case Update: Court of Appeal considers whether an employer can dismiss an employee for insubordination

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In this Case Update series, I share summaries of recent Malaysian court decisions to explore the current approach taken by the courts when deciding on employment-related issues. You can find all the posts in the series by clicking here, including case updates on other legal areas by TheMalaysianLawyer co-founder Lee Shih.

Insubordination is where an employee wilfully disobeys or ignores an employer’s legitimate instructions. Malaysia’s Industrial Court has established via many previous decisions that insubordination is capable of being a serious misconduct which is sufficient to destroy the employment relationship and justify a dismissal.

However, as is the case for employee misconduct in general, not all instances of insubordination will amount to just cause for an employer to dismiss an employee. The Court of Appeal considered this issue in Ngiam Geok Mooi v. Pacific World Destination East Sdn Bhd [2016] 6 CLJ 395.

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Case Update: When an employee transfer can amount to a constructive dismissal

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In this Case Update series, I share summaries of recent Malaysian court decisions to explore the current approach taken by the courts when deciding on employment-related issues. You can find all the posts in the series by clicking here, including case updates on other legal areas by TheMalaysianLawyer co-founder Lee Shih.

It is a well-established principle in employment and industrial relations law in Malaysia that the right to transfer an employee is a prerogative of the management which the Industrial Court would rarely interfere with. However, there are factors which may affect an employer’s ability to transfer an employee without consent, including the following:

  • Whether the transfer is between different roles or departments within the same location, or from one branch or location to another, or between different companies within the same Group.
  • Whether the transfer is brought about by bona fide or genuine business reasons.
  • In some cases, the practical effect of the transfer may also be relevant (eg the impact of a change in work location or job functions).

In short, employee transfers are not always straightforward. Transferring an employee without consent may result in a breach of contract or constructive dismissal.

The Industrial Court considered these issues in Ng Bee Yoong v. Capital Development Sdn Bhd (Award No. 186 of 2016).

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