Let businesses decide on flexible working arrangements, says MEF

PETALING JAYA: Not all businesses can adapt to Flexible Working Arrangements (FWA), says the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).

Its president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman (pic) said it was important to understand that organisations hired employees to run and operate their businesses.

He added that different businesses have their own unique structures and production needs and that the final decision should remain with the businesses.

“Some are locally based, some are international based and governed by (different) rules and regulations. Therefore one must understand this before seeking to change the existing system of work. It should be recognised that not all businesses change and not all processes can change,” he said.

Syed Hussain said FWAs can only be implemented after these issues are understood, adding that certain areas of business could have flexibility while others could not.

“The final decision really depends on the industry and conditions of the particular business,” he added.

Syed Hussain was commenting on Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Awang Hashim’s remarks that employees who want to work on a flexible basis could apply for FWA with their respective employers under the amendment to the Employment Act 1955 which would come into force on Sept 1, 2022.

The FWA application must be made in writing and can cover changes in working hours, working days and also the place of work.

Syed Hussain said many organisations have started adopting new working systems since Malaysia began its transition to endemicity on April 1. Among the FWA arrangements in place were hybrid or work-from-home, flexible hours, and staggered hours.

“Organisations that can take into account the work-from-home experience during the pandemic will reap benefits in business productivity and sustainability. Companies are continuously reimagining new strategies in attracting, retaining, and engaging talent,” he said.

He said the organisations were concerned about how to implement a structured and sustainable FWA which was also suitable for their nature of business.

He said organisations have different ways of making their FWA work depending on the nature of their business, such as by tracking employees’ attendance and productivity, setting a timeline for employees to respond to work-related matters and a minimum number of days employees were required to be in the office.

The challenges for implementing FWAs include a lack of commitment from the top management and the management struggling to adapt to new working models that incorporate FWAs.

Lack of engagement among employees that may lead to lower productivity and higher attrition rate, confidential data and information being compromised, difficulty in that employees’ remote workspaces comply with OSH Act; Difficulties in cultivating trust between managers and employees, ensuring that FWAs policy is for all employees to ensure that system is fair are among the other challenges.

Apart from that, he said most organisations in the hospitality sector such as restaurants, hotels as well as the manufacturing sectors were unable to implement fully remote working and FWAs for their employees due to their nature of business.

He hoped that the government would support organisations in adopting and sustaining FWAs by providing clear guidelines on the rights and obligations of organisations such as on the decision on employees' request for FWAs, guidelines to reject employees’ applications, the consequences for employers who fail to comply to the FWAs requests, and the appeal process if applicable.

Apart from that, he said the government should also offer flexibility and relax some appropriate regulations and conduct awareness programmes to educate employers on all types of FWAs and how FWAs can meet their business needs and a strategy to attract and retain talent.

He said concise information must also be provided on FWAs including safety and health, good practices, work-related accidents that happen when FWA working from home and cybersecurity threats.

“Review existing regulations in Employment Act 1955 as appropriate to accommodate the provision of FWAs such as in Section 60a on the terms and conditions of the working hours, holidays, rest periods, wages, overtime, to complement FWAs models,” he said.

FWA approvals in organisations are the discretion of Head of Departments, the need to equip HR and HODs with the knowledge to develop FWAs policy that defines the FWAs eligibility, expectations, and responsibility,” he added.

He said tax measures must also be introduced to cover the purchase of software and hardware to enable employees to operate under FWAs.

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