Reduced working hours: ‘No big impact on operations’

PETALING JAYA: As the enforcement of the amendments to the Employment Act 1955 has been postponed from next month to Jan 1 next year, legal experts say the reduced working hours from 48 to 45 hours a week will not have a drastic effect on operations anyway.

Legal practitioner Chia Swee Yik noted that reduced working hours are already a common practice.

“If you look at the current working hours, from 9am to 6pm spread across five days a week, it makes up to 45 hours. And most companies already no longer operate on Saturdays.

“Once the amendments to the Act come into force, it will merely reflect what is basically happening.

“In fact, under the 2012 amendments, there was already a move to have a better work-life balance, even though the working hours were still 48 hours a week.

“It was during that time that amendments were made to cater for a five-day work week,” he said when contacted.

Chia also said that when the amendments take effect, it would be more meaningful for work-life balance when the employers adopt a flexible working policy at the same time.

“We do not want to spend an extra two hours on the road during rush hour from Monday to Friday to go to work until our public transportation system is upgraded.

“Although the reduced working hours move is a step in the right direction, having flexibility coupled with the right policy will have a greater impact on work-life balance, as attested to by many workers who have gone through the pandemic,” he said.

As to the four-working-day system, Chia opined that it is too drastic for Malaysia and a lot of industry players will not agree to it.

According to a survey by Qualtrics, an online survey company, 62% of full-time workers in Malaysia prefer flexibility to short working days such as a four-day-week.

The amendments to the Employment Act were passed during the Parliament meeting in March, and among its highlights is the flexibility for employees in terms of working hours, location of work, time and days of work. It includes the flexibility to work from home during emergencies such as the pandemic.

Other key changes are the extension of maternity leave from 60 days to 98 days and the introduction of a seven-day paternity leave for married employees.

All Women’s Action Society (Awam) information and communications officer Jernell Tan said the reduction in working hours enables working women to have a wider flexibility in arranging their schedules.

“Overall, this amendment, along with other amendments such as protection for pregnant employees, full maternity leave and flexible working arrangements, can facilitate the retention of women who get married and have children within the workforce. It will also open up more employment opportunities for them.

“Furthermore, the reduced working hours will enable everyone to allocate for themselves more family and/or self-care quality time,” she said.

The International Labour Organisation said that regular long hours of work remain a serious concern in most of the world today, particularly in certain regions, most notably Asia and the Pacific.

“Regularly working long hours is positively associated with chronic effects of fatigue, leading to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and even higher mortality rates as well as poorer mental health, such as higher rates of anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.

“Long weekly hours are also associated with reduced levels of reported work-life balance and increased work-family conflict.

“Thus reducing long hours of work can help to improve workers’ physical and mental health as well as their work-life balance,” it said in reply to a request for comment on the amendments to the Act.

On Friday, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan announced the postponement after meeting with industry players and stakeholders, who had appealed for the amendments to the Employment Act 1955 to be deferred while they were undergoing economic recovery.

The minister said there would be no more extension beyond Jan 1, 2023, with ample time given to businesses to sort out their issues.

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working hours , Employment Act , amendments


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