The Star reported today that the Human Resources Ministry is looking to review Malaysia’s existing labour legislation to improve worker welfare and curb gender discrimination. Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Abd Muttalib was quoted as saying:
There is no law which states that it is wrong for an employer not to hire a pregnant woman. It is left to the discretion of the employer … but there must not be any discrimination.
It is telling that the Deputy Minister also stated that “between 2014 and 2016, there was only one case where a woman in confinement claimed she was discriminated against. An investigation was carried out and the employer was advised against doing so”. His statement reflects the gaps in our legislation in addressing discrimination, since there is no legal force behind a Ministry’s “advice” against discrimination.
We previously wrote about pregnancy discrimination and the need for law reform. Without legislative reform, employees will have to rely on case law to support their action against employers for discrimination. Unfortunately, current case law only recognises pregnancy discrimination as a violation of the Federal Constitution if the employer is the government.
As such, a review of our employment legislation is timely. The last major amendment to the Employment Act was in 2012, which among other things, bolstered maternity benefits by extending the provisions to all female employees in Malaysia regardless of their salary.
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