Unfeasible to raise fines

IT is economically unfeasible to increase the fine on employers who fail to improve housing for their foreign workers due to the current economic climate, says Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan.

“The ministry is currently imposing a fine of RM50,000 per worker on employers if they fail to comply with the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990,” he said.

Saravanan said the number of foreigners who contributed to the Social Security Organisation (Socso) had also dropped from 1.8 million to 1.1 million within a year, indicating that the country is facing a labour shortage.

“Before the first implementation of the MCO, the number of foreign workers contributing to Socso was 1.8 million, but today, just within a year, the figure has dropped to 1.1 million, showing that the country is really facing a labour shortage crisis.

“If we want to revive the economy, we have to increase productivity and for that, we need manpower, and in this situation, it is probably not a suitable time to raise the fine,” he said in reply to a supplementary question from Datuk Che Abdullah Mat Nawi (PN-PAS) during Question Time.

Che Abdullah had asked whether the ministry would consider imposing a higher fine as many employers had yet to comply with the Act.

Under the Act, employers should adhere to the standard operating procedure, including conducting cleanliness and disinfection exercises in common areas, providing facilities for washing and disinfecting hands, avoiding group activities and ensuring physical distancing of at least one metre.

Previously, Act 446 only covered the mining sector and plantations bigger than 8.09ha. Now, it has been extended to cover housing and accommodation for workers in all sectors across Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan.

Saravanan had said in March this year that the Act would ensure Malaysia is on the right path towards improving living conditions of foreign workers in the country.

“One of the changes we made is for adherence to Act 446 as a condition before employers are allowed to hire foreign workers.

“If a company cannot convince the Labour Department that it is able to provide proper accommodation for foreign workers, its application will not be approved,” he was reported as saying.

Meanwhile, Saravanan said 940 investigation papers had been opened on employers in various sectors between June 2020 and August 2021.

“​​​​​A total of 618 compound fines were issued for various offences, such as failure to meet the minimum standard of accommodation, including providing beds, mattresses and pillows for workers,” he said.

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