‘Separate law needed to protect foreign maids’

Das: The current Employment Act does not fully apply to foreign workers.

KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaganita has called for a separate legislation to protect the rights of foreign ­workers, saying the current Employment Act does not have the provisions to do so.

Tenaganita director Glorene Das said incidences of abuse among domestic workers were on the rise due to existing loopholes in the Act.

“For example, a labour inspector cannot enter the private domains of a house to inspect how domestic workers are doing.

“That is why a separate legislation with proper terms and conditions are needed,” she told ­reporters at an event to mark International Migrants Day.

According to Das, Tenaganita along with several migrant rights-based NGOs have drafted a Bill in order to close loopholes in the Act, which they hope to push to Parliament by next year.

“After studying the current Employment Act, we realised that it does not apply fully to foreign ­workers,” she said.

Das praised the Government’s efforts to introduce the system to hire maids directly online, as it would eliminate middlemen in the process.

“Tenaganita supports direct ­hiring because domestic workers are better protected and there will be more accountability since the employer will be hiring directly from the Government,” Das said.

She added, however, that the Government must provide more information to the public regarding direct hiring, as employers are left in the dark over the matter.

“We have employers asking us about the direct hiring system because there is still a lack of information,” she said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, when tabling Budget 2018, announced that the Govern­ment was giving employers a choice to recruit foreign maids directly from nine source countries without going through agents.

Das said existing legislations such as the Employment Act, Industrial Relation Act, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and the Penal Code have provisions to protect migrant workers, but pointed out that there was a lack of enforcement and implementation by the authorities, calling it blatant discrimination against migrant workers.

“Let’s say if a migrant worker has unpaid wages, he can stop working and file a case in court. However, he becomes undocumented in the process because the law allows employers to cancel his work permit.

“He will face the risks of being arrested, detained and deported. At the same time, while he is pursuing the case, he has to pay hundreds of ringgit to get a special pass which has a stay limit of three months,” Das said.

“How can you give three months of special pass to settle the case in court?

“This goes to show the discrimination that exists.”

According to the Auditor-Gener­al’s Report 2016 Series 2, foreign workers were still being arrested despite having their i-Kad with them.

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