Emergency Ordinance allows for stiffer penalties for failing to provide proper housing facilities for workers

PUTRAJAYA: The Emergency Ordinance (Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities) 2021 has been gazetted and will see stiffer penalties against employers or owners of accommodation for failing to provide proper housing facilities for workers.

With the Ordinance, gazetted on Feb 17, in place, the use of Act 446 can now be used in Sabah and Sarawak.

The Ordinance will give authority to the director-general of the Labour Department to order owners of accommodation to replace, change or upgrade the facilities should it be found not to meet criteria under the Act, said Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan (pic) .

“Owners of accommodation who fail to comply with the order can be fined up to RM200,000 or be jailed up to three years or both, ” he said at a press conference Thursday (Feb 18).

New regulations under the Act will also be enforced under the Emergency Ordinance, where it will be compulsory for employers to provide accommodation for all foreign workers they hire, with the exception of domestic helpers.

Also, said Saravanan, offences committed under the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Regulations will now be compoundable.

On vaccination for foreign workers, the minister said this effort is important to stop infectivity among these workers, which had contributed to the number of Covid-19 clusters in the country.

“Employers who fail to ensure that foreign workers or workers who live in the staff hostels are inoculated commit an offence under the Act 446, ” he said.

Saravanan said the ministry is also planning to hand down power to officers of six ministries to ensure effective enforcement.

“Enforcement will concentrate mainly on the 75,000 employers with foreign workers in three states - Selangor, Johor and Kuala Lumpur - and in three sectors with the most positive cases which are manufacturing, construction and services, ” he said,

Saravanan said that his ministry is working with the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry in preparing temporary accommodation for foreign workers who were transferred from their original living quarters that did not meet Act 446 standards.

The temporary accommodation encompasses centralised labour quarters that have been certified by the Labour Department, as well as hotels registered under MOTAC.

The temporary accommodation package involves rental cost of RM200 and utility costs of RM20 a month for each worker and this will be borne by the employer as well as those who provided the accommodations but the workers had to be transferred elsewhere as the living conditions did not meet the standard.

“We are also co-ordinating with the Public Land Transport Agency to obtain a list of bus operators that can provide service to ferry the workers to and from their places of work, ” he said.

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