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Full pay unlikely despite return to office for work

12 Apr 2021 / 10:25 H.

PETALING JAYA: The work-from-home (WFH) order has been lifted, paving the way for employees to return to the office.

However, any hope of a reinstatement of their full salaries remains a dim prospect. Employers insist that business must pick up first before they can afford the extra money.

A vast majority of workers in Malaysia have had to survive on reduced salaries for a year now, and for most of them, it has been difficult.

As an employee of an entertainment company told theSun, it has not been easy stretching the ringgit to cover the needs of her two children and herself.

The employee, who declined to be named, said her salary was reduced from RM3,100 to RM1,550 a month after the first movement control order was declared on March 18 last year.

A total of 30% of respondents to a survey by online recruitment agency Jobstreet.com last year revealed that their salaries had been cut and they were concerned about their finances and job security.

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said salary cuts were inevitable to help companies sustain their businesses.

“Even now, with the WFH policy already lifted, it will still take time for business to pick up,” he said.

“Given such constraints, I believe it will take time for employers to reinstate full salaries,” he added. He said it would depend on how soon the country can achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 to help businesses get “back to normal”.

“Businesses are still suffering from the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns, so employers should not be forced to reinstate full wages yet,” he said. “They should be given time to determine if that is viable.”

Sharing similar sentiments is Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai.

“Employers have made every effort to minimise employment-related cost-cutting measures over the past year,” he told theSun.

As expected, workers are adamant that they should be paid their full salaries now.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress deputy president Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani said that aside from the unfairness, employers are required to obtain the “go ahead” from employees before slashing their salaries.

“I’m surprised that some companies are still not raising their workers’ salaries to the original level. These workers should report to the Human Resources Ministry. Otherwise, we will bring up the matter,” Mohd Effendy said.

In an article published on Jan 28, law firm MahWengKwai and Associates said employers are not allowed to impose a pay cut without first obtaining the consent of their employees.

In the article titled Business Downturn Due to Covid-19, the firm said a deduction in workers’ salaries may be allowed only under certain conditions, specifically when it is the only option left to prevent termination of services or retrenchment of employees.

It pointed out that under Section 24(1) of the Employment Act 1955, an employer is not allowed to reduce an employee’s salary unless it is in accordance with the Act.

Sections 24(2) to (6) of the same legislation stipulate when and how employers can make lawful deductions of employees’ wages.

Under certain circumstances, deductions of wages can only be made if employees request for such deductions in writing and prior permission from the director-general of labour is obtained.

“The exercise of pay cuts or deduction of wages are viewed as extreme measures and should only be the last resort after exhaustion of all other cost-saving measures.

“This position is also affirmed by the Code of Conduct for Industrial Harmony, an agreement made between the Human Resources Ministry and the Malaysian Council of Employers’ Organisations,” the article by MahWengKwai stated.

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