Citing overwhelming support, WAO urges Malaysia’s legislators to expedite labour law amendments for greater gender equality

Office workers are pictured during lunchtime in Kuala Lumpur June 5, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Office workers are pictured during lunchtime in Kuala Lumpur June 5, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — Most Malaysians are in favour of policies that promote gender equality in the workplace, according to a recent survey.

The survey conducted by Vase.ai in collaboration with Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Undi18, and Architects of Diversity also indicated widespread support for increased paid maternity and paternity leave, policies to create a fair working environment for women, and policies to encourage fathers and mothers to equally share in care and domestic responsibilities.

To this, WAO urged the Dewan Rakyat to act swiftly in its next session to table and pass the proposed amendments to the Employment Act 1955, which encompasses policies that have been found to enjoy the support of a vast majority of citizens.

“Seventy per cent of Malaysians believe that paid paternity leave for fathers should increase. The proposed amendments would introduce three days of paid paternity leave for the private sector, where there is currently no paid paternity leave. WAO continues to push for a minimum of seven days of paid paternity leave,” it said in a statement.

Similarly 75 per cent of the survey’s respondents agree that the total paid maternity leaves for mothers should increase. Presently the Employment Act provides 60 days of paid maternity leave for the private sector, which the proposed amendments would increase to 90 days, in line with the International Labour Organization’s recommended minimum standard.

“The results also revealed that the vast majority of Malaysians are in favour of policies that would work to eliminate gender discrimination and create a more gender equal workplace. 91 per cent agree that more policies should be in place to create a fair working environment for women, such as a nursing room for new mothers.

“Additionally, 84 per cent of Malaysians agree that more policies should be in place for women to be granted the same job opportunities as men, while 83 per cent agree that more policies are needed to ensure women are paid equally for the same work as men,” WAO said.

It said the proposed amendments to the Employment Act already include a prohibition of gender discrimination against employees, which means employers would no longer be able to discriminate against women in the workplace, such as through limiting opportunities for advancement for women, by hindering women from equally participating in the workplace by failing to provide necessary facilities, and also include protection against termination for pregnant women.

“While a critical measure, these protections must also be extended to job seekers, since many
women are currently discriminated against in the recruitment and interview stage on the basis of their gender or pregnancy status.

“In addition, 86 per cent of Malaysians agree that more policies should be in place to encourage fathers and mothers to equally share in care and domestic responsibilities. A more equal sharing of responsibilities would be facilitated by the availability of flexible working hours for both parents, which the proposed amendments allow employees to request,” WAO said.

Another finding from the survey revealed that 89 per cent of Malaysians agree more policies are needed to ensure women are not subjected to sexual harassment in any context, including the workplace.

“While the proposed amendments will include protections against sexual harassment in the workplace, the proposed Sexual Harassment Bill which is slated in the next Parliament session will aim to address sexual harassment in all contexts, from universities to public spaces.

“By tabling and passing the proposed amendments to the Employment Act in November, Parliament has the opportunity to implement policies that are widely supported by Malaysians towards closing the gender gap in employment,” it said.

The survey’s final sample included 1,027 responses, with respondents aged 18 years old and above quota sampled according to census statistics by race, gender, age and region of residence.

Earlier on July 29, Deputy Human Resources Minister Awang Hashim told the Dewan Rakyat during the question-and-answer session that the proposed amendments are meant to improve the minimum standard of employment and streamline it with international labour standards.

Related Articles