Employers in all working sectors should understand the burden and hardships employees are going to face after the implementation of the conditional movement control order (CMCO) in several states.
Recently, the government decided the CMCO would be enforced in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya from Oct 14 to 27, and the whole of Sabah between Oct 13 and Oct 26.
The CMCO needs to be implemented due to the increased number of Covid-19 cases reported in the country lately.
These restrictions need to be implemented in order to bring down the number Covid-19 infections and prevent the outbreak itself among the general population.
Through the CMCO, schools, day-care centres, places of worship, parks, sporting activities, social activities, weddings and entertainment outlets in these states are prohibited.
Inter-district and inter-state travel is also prohibited except for working purposes. Since the government decided to implement the CMCO in several states, life will become difficult for employees who stay or work in CMCO areas, where they are required to seek permission from their bosses in order to go to work, or even to move around to carry out their work-related activities.
For some employees, seeking such permission usually entails bureaucratic and time-consuming processes as they need to seek constant permission from their employer in order for them to move around or to carry out work-related activities easily.
They will also need to face the long queues at roadblocks by authorities in CMCO areas.
Since schools and day-care centres will also be closed throughout the CMCO period, employees with young children will also need to focus on them throughout the 14-day duration they are at home.
Due to this, employers should exercise their discretion wisely and not put more burden and hardship on their employees.
Employers in certain working sectors should permit their employees to do their work from home and fully implement flexible working arrangements for them.
Employees should be permitted to perform their duties from a place where they feel safe.
Employers must avoid asking them to come to work if it is not necessary to do so. By not asking employees to travel chances of contracting the Covid-19 infection will also be reduced.
Meetings, seminars, courses and other work-related activities should be conducted online.
Less physical or face-to-face interaction should become the new norm in all workplaces.
It is important for employers to protect the safety and health of their workers.
Both common and Malaysian laws stipulate a clear duty by every employer to protect the safety and health of their employees as much as possible.
Such duties include protecting their employees from any hazardous diseases like Covid-19.
Employers must ensure their workers are able to perform their duties without risking their safety and health at the workplace.
This is clearly highlighted under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (Act 514). Section 15 of Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (Act 514) requires every employer and self–employed person to ensure, so far as is practicable, the safety, health and welfare of all his employees at work.
If the employer can’t give such assurances, it’s better to allow their workers to perform their duties from home and conduct all work-related activities online.
If the employer is still forcing their workers to come to the workplace where there is no assurance over the worker’s safety and health, such employers will be committing an offence.
Section 19 of Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (Act 514) provides that an employer who neglects, or disregards safety and health issues at the workplace commits an offence and may be fined up to RM50,000 or face a jail term of not exceeding two years, or both.
Employers must also never be allowed to take advantage of the current hardships faced by the employee due to the CMCO, to terminate them indiscriminately.
Malaysian employment law requires employers to have “just cause and excuse” before terminating their employees.
Under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177), an employee who feels he/she has been unfairly dismissed without just cause, or excused by their employer, may lodge a representation to the director-general of Industrial Relations Department, Ministry of Human Resources within 60 days from the date of termination.
The Industrial Relations Department will try their best to solve the matter amicably.
However, in the event the parties fail to come to an amicable settlement, the matter can be further referred to the Industrial Court for determination.
Muzaffar Syah Mallow is a senior lecturer of Faculty of Syariah and Law at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM). Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org