PETALING JAYA: A total of 6,534 workers from 114 companies have lost their jobs since the start of the year, with 5,118 or about 78% coming from the finance and insurance sectors. The number, which is more than a sixth of the 38,499 workers retrenched last year, reflect the current economic downturn and challenging business climate. The Labour Department, a unit under the Human Resources Ministry told theSun today it had received 115 retrenchment notifications from local employers since early this year until March 10. It is a legal duty for employers to notify the department of every retrenchment activity. The five top sectors involved in the exercise are manufacturing (22 notifications), mining and quarry (21 notifications), retail (13 notifications), construction (11 notifications), as well as finance and insurance (7 notifications) sectors. In the manufacturing sector, about 437 workers were retrenched during the period, followed by 395 workers in the mining and quarry sector, 184 workers in retail sector and 155 workers in the construction sector. The department added that it had received a total of 13 notifications from oil and gas sector (mining and quarry), which has affected 241 workers in total to date. The department also revealed that professional and administration workers accounted the majority of workers affected, representing 72% or 4,720 of the total, while the remaining 28% or 1,814 were clerical workers and below. Commenting on retrenchment laws and benefits, the department said although retrenchment is a managerial prerogative and there is no legal provision to prohibit any company from cutting their workforce, there are salient points within employment related regulations that sets conditions when an employer conducts a retrenchment exercise. For instance, Section 60N of the Employment Act 1955 states that foreign workers should be the first to go in a staff reduction exercise. Meanwhile, Regulation 6 states that employers are obligated to pay lay-off benefits based on the following conditions: » 10 days wages for each year of service, for those with one to two years of service: » 15 days wages for each year of service, for those with more than two years but less than five years service; and » 20 days of wages for each year of service, for those with more than five years of service. Employees not covered by the Employment Act 1955 may seek redress for possible remedy under the Industrial Relations Act 1967 if they are not paid any lay-off benefits. The Labour department said the government facilitates retrenched workers who are seeking employment through an online portal services JobsMalaysia and its nationwide network of JobsMalaysia centres, which operate under the purview of the unit. "In addition, the department through JobsMalaysia also conducts regular job/employment carnivals that aim to promote potential job vacancies for Malaysians including those affected through recent retrenchments," it added.