Case Update: Court of Appeal sets out key legal principles for retrenchments

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.

Retrenchment exercises have been a regular occurrence in the Malaysian industrial relations landscape for many years now. This looks set to continue deep into 2021, as employers respond to the challenges created by the on-going pandemic. Despite this prevalence, many employers often mishandle retrenchment exercises, with significant consequences.

The recent Court of Appeal (“the COA”) case of Ng Chang Seng v. Technip Geoproduction (M) Sdn Bhd & Anor [2021] 1 CLJ 365 usefully sets out some key legal and practical principles that all employers should consider when embarking on a retrenchment exercise. Among others, the judgment in the Ng Chang Seng case covered the following issues:

  1. What issues does the court consider when deciding whether the employer has proved a genuine redundancy?
  2. How can an employer justify not using Last-In First-Out (“LIFO”) for employee selection?
  3. Does an employer always have to retrench all foreign employees before retrenching Malaysian employees?
  4. Does the rehiring of some retrenched employees on a contract basis mean that there was no genuine redundancy?
  5. How much weight does the court give to non-compliance with the Code of Conduct for Industrial Harmony (“the Code of Conduct”)?

You can find all our previous posts on retrenchments by clicking on the tag here. Some of my earlier articles have been very popular and should prove useful:

  1. Retrenchments in Malaysia — some recent cases (29 May 2020).
  2. Case Update: Insufficient justification and improper handling of Voluntary Separation Scheme may give rise to unfair dismissal (20 March 2019).
  3. What you need to know about the law on retrenchment of employees (22 January 2016).

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Changes to the Industrial Relations Act from January 2021: Highlights and practical impact on employee exits

Some important changes to Malaysia’s Industrial Relations Act came into force on 1 January 2021, pursuant to the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2020 (“the Amendment Act”). The changes heavily affect unfair dismissal claims — from the pre-trial conciliation process through to appealing an Industrial Court decision — and may significantly impact employee terminations.

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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: High Court rules entitlement to back wages limited to unexpired duration of fixed-term contract

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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.

The issue of calculating back wages due to an unfairly dismissed employee has become fairly settled, at least when it comes to the upper limit of the award. The Second Schedule of the Industrial Relations Act states:

1. In the event that backwages are to be given, such backwages shall not exceed 24 months’ backwages from the date of dismissal based on the last-drawn salary of the person who has been dismissed without just cause or excuse.

However, the recent High Court case of Malayan Banking Bhd v. Mahkamah Perusahaan Malaysia & Anor [2017] 2 CLJ 70 considered a unique scenario, where the employee was dismissed while under a probationary period as part of a fixed-term contract. The Second Schedule of the Industrial Relations Act provides the following in respect of probationers:

2. In the case of a probationer who has been dismissed without just cause or excuse, any backwages given shall not exceed 12 months’ backwages from the date of dismissal based on his last-drawn salary.

The applicant (the Employer) applied to the High Court for an order to quash the decision of the first respondent (the Industrial Court). One of the issues that the High Court had to consider in this case (which is the issue we will focus on in this case update) was whether the second respondent (the Employee) should only have been entitled to back wages for the unexpired portion of her fixed-term contract (which was 5 months and 17 days), and not the 12-month maximum provided in the Industrial Relations Act for probationers.

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