5 Key Reliefs in Malaysia’s Covid-19 Bill: Better Late than Never?

Malaysia has tabled its Temporary Measures for Reducing the Impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Bill (Covid-19 Bill) in Parliament. The Bill states that it will have retrospective effect from 18 March 2020. This Covid-19 Bill and the eventual Act may alleviate some of the contractual and other issues that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic and Malaysia’s movement control restrictions.

However, with this Bill only being passed sometime in August 2020, is this a case of too little, too late?  We will have to see whether Malaysia’s Covid-19 Bill can help businesses and companies.

I touch on five key areas in the Covid-19 Bill. Continue reading

Talk – Reliefs and Risks for Companies and Directors: COVID-19 Temporary Measures

I have been invited to speak at the Malaysian Institute of Accountants‘ webinar on Wednesday 17 June 2020. It is titled Reliefs and Risks for Companies and Directors: COVID-19 Temporary Measures. My co-speaker is Kenneth Foo, both of us being the authors of Companies Act 2016: The New Dynamics of Company Law in Malaysia. Here is the registration form for the two-hour webinar. Fees are RM150 for MIA members and RM195 for non-members.

This seminar will cover all the common practical issues for companies arising from the movement control restriction. With the heightened risk of solvency-related issues, directors must also be aware of their responsibilities and the risks of personal liability.

 

Lessons from Lockdown: How COVID-19 and remote working have changed the way we work

2020 has been the year of COVID-19. The pandemic has affected every aspect of life in almost every corner of the globe. Apart from the devastating impact on health and lives, and the effect on economies everywhere which may take years to recover from, COVID-19 has changed the way we work. Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (“MCO”) meant that from 18 March, most businesses had to cease on-site operations. Many other countries also enforced similar restrictions.

As a result of restrictions, people the world over have had to get used to working from home. While the concept of remote working isn’t new (it may come as a surprise to many that Tim Ferriss’ classic “The 4-Hour Workweek” was published 13 years ago), before these restrictions most industries had resisted the shift to working away from the office. The COVID-19 restrictions have forced even the staunchest luddites to adopt remote working.

We sought the views of the following four individuals with links to the legal industry across Asia-Pacific to hear about their work-from-home experiences:

  1. Crystal Wong, a partner in the Energy, Infrastructure & Projects and International Arbitration Practice Group at LHAG.
  2. Gaythri Raman, the Managing Director, Southeast Asia at LexisNexis.
  3. Jeannette Tam, a Senior Managing Associate at Bird & Bird Hong Kong.
  4. Zamir Hamdy Hamdan, the Asst Vice President for Stakeholder Management in Astro Malaysia‘s Human Capital Division.

We’re sure you’ll enjoy reading their insights.

Continue reading

Insights from two months of webinars

There have been a few very noticeable changes in the Malaysian legal industry in 2020. Most of these are attributable to COVID-19 and the resultant restrictions under the Movement Control Order (MCO) since 18 March 2020, and subsequent on-going Conditional MCO.

One significant development was the proliferation of webinars. By the middle of April, it seemed like there was at least one webinar a day to tune into, depending on your area of interest. Almost all of these were free, with some requiring prior registration. In recent weeks we have seen the shift to paid webinars, and webinars will very likely be a mainstay for the foreseeable future. It is looking increasingly unlikely that big conferences will be possible for the rest of the year.

To gain some insights into the rise in popularity of webinars, particularly in the legal industry, there is probably no better person to hear from than Richard Wee. He was one of the first movers who promoted and hosted webinars during the MCO — both in collaboration with Brickfields Asia College (BAC), and through his own firm, Richard Wee Chambers (RWC). Richard has since hosted more than 20 webinars, covering a broad range of topics.

Continue reading

Retrenchments in Malaysia — some recent cases

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on jobs around the world. Almost every country has experienced an economic downturn, and as businesses struggle to steady the ship and stay afloat, many employers have been doing their best to retain their employees where possible. It has been a very busy 2020 for employment lawyers and HR professionals.

Unfortunately, for employers in many industries, COVID-19 has negatively affected their revenues too significantly, and cutting jobs has become the only solution to keep the businesses going. This has also been the case in Malaysia, where the Movement Control Order crippled many businesses, and the government has been unable to provide meaningful assistance to employers. For example, the aid provided under the Prihatin wage subsidy program is very low and short-term compared to other countries, and comes with conditions attached that make it impractical for many employers.

As a result, there have already been many retrenchments carried out in Malaysia, with even more to come. Indicative of the times, in the past couple of months, we have suddenly seen a significant amount of traffic on an old article I published here in January 2016 — “What you need to know about the law on retrenchment of employees”.

But retrenchments can be tricky. Over the years I’ve seen many employers make mistakes that result in unfair dismissal claims, a messy and costly court process, and sometimes very big court awards to be paid to former employees. Often, these mistakes are made even by employers who have done their research on the law, and sometimes even by those who have obtained legal advice (which ultimately turned out to be incomplete or flawed).

Knowing how to properly carry out a retrenchment exercise — and knowing what practical mistakes and missteps to avoid — comes with experience. It also helps greatly to analyse how other businesses have implemented retrenchments (both properly and improperly), and so in this article I set out very brief summaries of a selection of retrenchment-related decisions by the Industrial Court in the past year.

Continue reading

AIAC Webinar – Statutory Rescue: Whether Introducing a COVID-19 Act Can Save the Economy?

On Friday 8 May 2020, I will be moderating a webinar organised by the Asian International Arbitration Centre. The title is “Statutory Rescue: Whether Introducing a COVID-19 Act Can Save the Economy?” This is a free webinar and you can email: [email protected] to register for the Zoom webinar or you can view it on AIAC’s Facebook page.

Continue reading