Stand-alone law better for discrimination

RECENTLY, the Human Resources Ministry announced that the proposed draft of an amendment to the Employment Act 1955 to address the issue of workplace discrimination is being finalised.

The move was initiated in light of the ban on women wearing headscarves as frontline staff in some hotels.

However, it is worth noting that the Employment Act 1955 only applies to certain categories of employees, namely those whose monthly salary does not exceed RM2,000, workers engaged in manual labour regardless of their salary or in the operation or maintenance of mechanically propelled vehicles, those who supervise or oversee other employees engaged in manual labour, employees engaged in any capacity on a vessel (subject to certain other conditions), and domestic servants.

Furthermore, multiple parts of the Employment Act do not apply to domestic servants, including termination benefits, hours of work and maternity protection.

Also, for employees to come within the purview of the Employment Act 1955, they must be employed under a “Contract of Service” as opposed to a “Contract for Services”.

In addition, the Employment Act 1955 is only applicable in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan. Sabah and Sarawak are governed by their respective Labour Ordinance.

As such, it would be difficult to address workplace discrimination under the existing legislation.

Another option which the Government could consider is to have a stand-alone legislation to address the issue.

Under a stand-alone law, various aspects of workplace discrimination could be addressed clearly and properly, including employees’ dress code, age, individual disability, health, genetic information, national origin, and personal beliefs.


Faculty of Syariah and Law

Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia