Face-off over workers getting recalled from vacation

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 15 Dec 2013

PETALING JAYA: Should employees be required to work even when they are on vacation?

With the year-end festive holiday season coming up, employers and employees will face-off over that age old bugbear.

Employers argue that they may miss out on business opportunities if their employees fail to constantly monitor developments related to the company’s interests.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress [MTUC] president, Mohd Khalid Atan. AZMAN GHANI / The Star
MTUC president Mohd Khalid Atan

And they support their argument by pointing out that with today’s technological advances, employees have no excuse not to keep abreast of the latest developments.

“If employers don’t seize opportunities that come their way immediately, they may be left in the cold by their competitors, said Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan.

Also, technology is a double-edged sword – it enables businesses to react swiftly in ever fluid marketplaces and to cash in on opportunities that may suddenly present themselves.

But this is also bad news for today’s employee who finds himself having to stay up to date on company business.

“If employers provide smartphones and pay their employees’ cellphone bill and data package, the worker is expected to respond to calls at all times, even outside their working hours,” Shamsuddin said.

But generally, he added, employers would pay their staff an allowance or give extra annual leave days if the workers were wanted back at the office while on leave.

MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan believes that there is a lack of national will and policy to tap into the pool of rich human resource, to mitigate negative reasons arising from non-hiring of retirees, and to provide retraining or training in completely different skills.
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan.

However, he also advises employers to strike a balance between the company’s interests and the employees’ well being.

“Taking a break helps workers rejuvenate mentally and physically. This improves productivity,” said Shamsuddin.

“If employers require employees to work while on leave, it should be because of sheer necessity for the company’s survival, he added.

MTUC president Mohd Khalid Atan, in comparison, is completely against recalling workers from vacation or expecting them to work while on holiday.

He said expecting employees to work while on vacation may be counter productive.

“Workers are not robots and need a break from work problems. If CEOs don’t want to hear from their staff while relaxing by the beach, they should show the same courtesy,” Khalid said.

While technology allows employees to work from anywhere in the world, he said, it is wrong to expect an employee on leave to do any work.

He added that hearing from the office also spoils the holiday mood of the employees.

National Union of Banking Employees (NUBE) general secretary J. Solomon called on the Government to adopt measures to prevent employees from being asked to work on their days off.

Citing Germany’s new labour guidelines as an example, he said employers here must be made accountable for depriving their staff of their personal time.

“We should have work regulations similar to Europe where employees are assured of a work-life balance. Some employers here take advantage of hardworking Malaysians by harassing them 24/7 even during family vacations.

“Instead of paying others to be on standby, they expect their staff to work even during their leave,” he said, adding that NUBE has received “numerous reports” of employees being recalled on their days off or being told to be on standby while on leave.

“Some unethical employers have even crossed the line and terminated their staff for refusing to come back to work while others use the ‘performance bonus or promotion carrot’ to recall employees,” he said.

Related stories:

When a vacation becomes an office away from the workplace

Proper handovers needed before employee goes on holiday

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