‘New housing Act insensitive’

KUALA LUMPUR: This is not the time to enforce a law requiring employers to provide proper accommodation to foreign workers when businesses are suffering, says the Malaysian Employers Federation.

Its executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said the government’s decision to enforce the amendment to the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act on June 1 was insensitive and did not take into account the problems faced by employers.

“Instead, the government should assist employers by guiding them and workers on how Covid-19 can be prevented at their quarters.”

The amendment will now include workers from all industries, including construction, with a three-month grace period granted to employers to implement it.

Shamsuddin said the minimum space requirement per worker living in a permanent dwelling is 4.8sq m while temporary dwelling is 3sq m.

“The space required for individual employees is demanding and costly and yet the maximum allowable charge on accommodation currently is only RM50 per worker, way below the centralised housing cost of RM100 to RM150 at market rate.

“Some employers may have to send home some foreign workers because they don’t have enough financial resources to comply with it,” he said, adding that the government should target undocumented workers in which most Covid-19 cases were detected.

He also said that the grace period was too short as they were trying to cope with the requirements under the conditional movement control order to revive businesses.

Shamsuddin said providing “kongsi” type accommodation at construction sites would no longer be feasible under the new law.

“Accommodation will be further away from construction sites and there is a need to provide transportation, which adds cost and travel time,” he said.

However, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr N. Ganabaskaran welcomed the government’s move, saying that workers should not be living in cramped rooms and a limit must be set on the number of workers per room.

“Physical distancing and good personal hygiene must be observed. Their accommodation must also be kept clean and disinfected,” he said.

Dr Ganabaskaran said employers should also appoint team leaders to ensure preventive measures were enforced as part of the standard operating procedure (SOP).

“Regular checks at construction sites and foreign workers’ accommodation should be conducted by the authorities,” he said, adding that fines should be issued for non-compliance.

He also said sharing of food and drinks among the workers should not be allowed.

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