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In Malaysian Parliament on 15 July, the Bill seeking to amend the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 was passed, with a view to expand the coverage of Act 446, which previously applied only to estate employees, to other employment sectors.
The announcement was made by Minister of Human Resources, M Kulasegaran (pictured above). The amendments include provisions on providing separate facilities for different genders, measures on fire safety, as well as necessary medical assistance and immunisation (detailed below).
Here are some of the highlights that employers need to make note of:
1. The scope of Act 446 now covers other employment sectors in addition to employees employed to work on an estate, in that Act 446 would now have the power to regulate minimum standards of accommodation for employees whose place of employment is other than the estates.
2. General amendment to the English language text to substitute for the word “worker” the word “employee”, to be consistent with the Employment Act 1955 [Act 265]. The clause also seeks to amend sections 18, 20 and 33 to increase the punishments imposed for offences under those sections.
3. While Act 446 previously applies throughout Malaysia, it now only applies to Peninsular Malaysia and the Federal Territory of Labuan. The Government of Sabah and the Government of Sarawak have agreed that corresponding laws will be provided in their respective Labour Ordinance.
4. A proposed provision further seeks to provide that an employer, if ordered to do so by the Director General, is under the obligation to provide a nursery if the employees have together at least five dependants under four years of age living with them. The proposed provision also seeks to increase the punishments imposed for an offence under this section.
Previously, an employer was under such duty if there were at least ten dependants under four years of age living with the employees.
5. Clause 11 seeks to prevent an employer from imposing any payment as rent or charge on his estate on employees who are provided with housing and amenities.
6. An employer or a centralised accommodation provider who provides accommodation for employees shall obtain a Certificate for Accommodation from the Director General. Failure to comply shall render the employer or centralised accommodation provider guilty of an offence.
7. The proposed new section 24e seeks to provide for the obligation of an employer to inform the Director General if his employee has occupied any accommodation provided by him or by a centralised accommodation provider, within thirty days from the date of occupation.
8. The proposed new section 24g seeks to allow an employer to collect any sum for rent or charge in respect of accommodation provided under the new Part IIIa. The sum for rent or charge shall be collected by way of deduction from the wages of the employee.
9. The proposed new section 24h seeks to ensure compliance with the building and construction requirements under other relevant written laws, in addition to the requirements under Act 446.
10. The proposed new section 24i imposes the duty on an employer and a centralised accommodation provider to provide decent and adequate amenities to employees in accordance with the minimum standards specified under Act 446 or the regulations made thereunder.
11. The proposed new section 24j seeks to impose the duties and responsibilities on an employer and a centralised accommodation provider in respect of the safety and health of employees who are provided with accommodation under the new Part IIIa. This includes preventive measures relating to fire safety and containing the spread of infectious diseases.
12. The proposed new section 24l seeks to provide for the appointment of a person in charge of an accommodation, who will be responsible for the employees’ welfare and discipline at the accommodation.
13. The proposed new section 24m seeks to provide for vacation of accommodation in the event an employee resigns under his contract of service or his contract of service is terminated.
14. The proposed new section 24n seeks to provide that an employer who provides accommodation for his employee is not obligated to also provide accommodation for the employee’s dependants.
13. Clause 14 seeks to amend section 25 of Act 446 to empower the Minister to regulate matters relating to accommodations under the new Part IIIa.
17. Where an offence is committed under Act 446 by a company, limited liability partnership, firm, society or other body of persons, the director, compliance officer, partner, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the company, etc. may be charged severally or jointly in the same proceedings with the company, etc. and if the company, etc. is found guilty, the director, compliance officer, partner, manager, secretary or other similar officer shall be deemed to be guilty of that offence.
18. To summarise, the functions and powers of the Director General in relation to accommodation are:
- Administer and regulate all matters relating to an accommodation;
- Direct employer or centralised accommodation provider to submit any information and documents relating to an employee’s accommodation;
- Issue any directions to an employer or a centralised accommodation provider to provide any other amenities relating to an accommodation;
- Issue a Certificate for Accommodation; and
- Do anything incidental to any of his functions under this Part.
19. To summarise, duties and responsibilities in respect of safety and health of an employer or a centralised accommodation provider are:
- Provide separate accommodation to employees of the opposite gender;
- Take necessary preventive measures to ensure employees’ safety and well-being;
- Take fire safety measures in accordance with the relevant written laws;
- Ensure that the electrical wiring systems comply with safety requirements in accordance with the relevant written laws;
- Ensure that the employees receive the necessary medical assistance; and
- Take preventive measures to contain the spread of infectious diseases as ordered by the Medical Officer of Health, including immunisation against any infectious disease.
Photo / Minister Kulasegaran’s Facebook