‘Follow the rules for flexible work’

NCCIM: Employers open to idea as long as approval rests with them

PETALING JAYA: With the government showing an openness to flexible work arrangements (FWA), employers say they see no major issues with their staff applying for it as long as clear policies and guidelines on the practice are in place.

Bosses say that to make it work, such arrangements, which have proven to benefit both employees and employers, should not be misused.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress president Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani said the Covid-19 pandemic had shown that remote work was possible and effective for many roles.

“Employees and employers have adapted to virtual collaboration tools, making flexible work hours more manageable.

“In addition, flexible work hours help to reduce traffic congestion.

“With the government showing an openness to FWA, policies and guidelines to support telecommuting have been introduced,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Mohd Effendy was responding to Human Resources Minister Steven Sim’s announcement that workers in Malaysia can apply to their employers for FWA based on time, days and location of work according to Sections 60P and 60Q of the Employment Act 1955.

On Wednesday, Sim said on X that such requests should be submitted to employers for feedback within 60 days, and if rejected, employers must provide reasons.

Mohd Effendy noted that some industries such as financial services, consulting, education institutions, telecommunications, startups, creative industries and customer support or service providers are more likely to adopt FWA.

Though other industries such as manufacturing or healthcare may face challenges, these sectors can modify their schedules, he said.

“Even healthcare and biotech, to a limited extent, have explored flexible work options for administrative and research positions.

“It’s important to consider individual company needs, technological capabilities and employee preferences when assessing the feasibility of FWA.”

He said many employees now prefer FWA after experiencing its benefits during the pandemic.

And with proper implementation, it can be a positive and sustainable arrangement that benefits both employees and the organisation, he added.

Mohd Effendy called on employees who are allowed to work remotely to treat it as a privilege and perform their tasks responsibly and professionally.

“Abusing the flexibility of remote work can undermine trust and impact both individual performance and team dynamics.

“Workers need to approach remote work with integrity and a commitment to fulfil their responsibilities effectively.”

National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said most employers are agreeable to implementing Sections 60P and 60Q of the Act, so long as the right to grant such requests rests with the employers.

“The determination of hours of business operations is – and has always been – the prerogative of the employer.

“Under Section 60Q, employers are not obligated to grant such requests but they must provide grounds for refusal in writing,” he said.

Soh noted that businesses have taken on a multipronged approach in terms of work operations as well as focusing on and accelerating the adoption of automation, artificial intelligence and digitalisation to help them to operate core activities remotely where possible.

“These efforts reduced the need for the physical presence of workers or lowered the density of workers for a particular production process.”

Soh, who is also the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president, said with the pandemic and lockdowns having changed the concept of work-from-home for all industries, including the manufacturing sector, adopting a more permanent or semi-permanent FWA differs from company to company and depends on the nature of their operations.

“For employers, there have to be clear policies and guidelines outlining the parameters of FWA,” he said.

The parameters include eligibility, approval processes, communication expectations and performance metrics.

“They also have to ensure that employees have access to the necessary technology and infrastructure to effectively work remotely, including reliable internet connection, appropriate software, and secure access and connection to company systems.”

Soh said there are legal and compliance requirements related to FWA to be considered as well, such as labour laws, employment contracts, tax implications and health and safety regulations.

“Careful consideration of these factors can create a supportive and flexible work environment that benefits both the organisation and its employees,” he said.

NCCIM is the country’s apex trade organisation and a federation of five major national trade organisations – Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia, Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia, Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry and FMM.

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