KUALA LUMPUR: Bosses and unions have welcomed the incentives announced under Budget 2020 to get women to return to the workforce but say efforts should be more holistic.
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said he hoped that the incentives would attract women to join the workforce again.
“Currently, most women seldom return to work, even after their children have grown up. Women’s participation in the labour force is currently 55% compared to men at 88%, ” he said.
Under Budget 2020, women aged 30 to 50 who have stopped working are given a RM500 monthly incentive for two years for them to return to work while employers will get RM300 as a hiring incentive.
These women will also have their income tax exemption extended until 2023. Maternity leave will be increased from 60 to 90 days for the private sector beginning 2021.
Shamsuddin said there should be a holistic national policy on how the country could harness the potential of women in the labour force.
“The accompanying re-training efforts for them is important because past skills may no longer be relevant, ” he said, adding that one way would be to allow employers to tap into the Human Resources Development Fund to send potential staff for re-training before joining their companies.
However, Shamsuddin said he did not agree with longer maternity leave as this would add a burden to the employers, who were already paying for 60-day maternity leave.
In developed and other Asean countries, maternity leave, he added, was paid by social security.
MTUC president Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor said the government should introduce a digital platform to help mothers work from home and enjoy employment benefits.
“The initiative looks good. But it takes a lot for a mother to go to work while they care for children.
“They should be treated like normal employees while working from home. They can be asked to report to the company at a certain time or on-call basis, ” he said, adding that employers should also provide a creche or kindergarten at the workplaces to assist parents.
Abdul Halim said the government did not spell out what companies should do with the hiring incentive paid to them.
“By giving RM300 to the employers, is it going into their pocket or is it for the government to work with the employer to set up a creche or kindergarten at the workplaces?
“This is where we are puzzled, ” he said, adding that the government should have laws to protect the rights of women at work, especially when many employers had not taken such initiatives.