Malaysia Employment Act amendments: 7 key changes for employers to note

Wide-ranging amendments to Malaysia’s Employment Act 1955 (“the EA”) are now going through Parliament. The Employment (Amendment Bill) 2021 (“the Bill”) was tabled for its first reading on 25 October 2021.

The Explanatory Statement to the Bill states that it seeks to amend the EA “to comply with the international standards and practices as required by the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Malaysia-United States Labour Consistency Plan and the International Labour Organization”. It further states that the purpose of the amendments, among others, is “to provide for the protection against discrimination and forced labour, and to provide for maternity benefits”.

As the Bill is only in its first reading, I expect some changes before it is finalised and passed. The current draft of the Bill does appear quite disjointed in parts, and there are some inconsistencies that will need to be cleaned up. It is worth noting that many of the amendments contained in the Bill have been mooted as far back as 2017, so while the fact that the Bill has been tabled is promising, there is no guarantee that it will be passed — though for political reasons it does appear very likely that it will happen this time.

The current draft of the Bill contains comprehensive amendments — there are 46 sections in total — but at this stage I will briefly set out the key changes that employers should take note of, along with some commentary.

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

Case Updates - red

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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