A struggle to attain work-life balance

I REFER to Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye’s letter “Mental health in the workplace” (The Star, July 15, 2019, online at https://bit.ly/38bycjV).

It is a known fact that Malaysian workers are overworked and have the worst work-life balance in the world.

Mental illnesses such as clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are on the rise due to increasing stress levels. Chronic stress predisposes us to mental illnesses.

In 2017, 29% of Malaysians suffered anxiety and depression due to stress. This figure is expected to increase in the years to come. “Depression will be world No.1’s disability by 2020, warns mental health group” (The Star, Oct 11, 2016; online at https://bit.ly/2FGeEb5).

Depression is also expected to be the world’s number one cause of disability by 2020. By 2030, mental illnesses could cost Malaysia RM105.47bil economically.

Overtime (OT) is not only a norm but it is also expected especially in the private sector, and workers whose salary exceeds RM2,000 per month are not under the purview of the Employment Act 1955, hence they are not entitled to overtime pay. This is grossly unfair as any professional work done deserves to be paid.

The Employment Act states that: “For any overtime work carried out in excess of the normal hours of work, the employee shall be paid at a rate not less than one and half times his hourly rate of pay.

“No employer shall require or permit an employee to work overtime exceeding such limit as may be prescribed by the Minister from time to time by regulations made under this Act.”

Overtime should only be used in dire situations and employers should not use it as an excuse to avoid hiring people. Thus, employers must pay their employees when they are required to work overtime. If not, employers would be exploiting their employees.

Most employers, especially those in the private sector, are taking advantage of the loophole in the Act to avoid paying their employees who work overtime.

Employees have the right to reject overtime work if the company has a policy of not paying for overtime, but it is not the case here. We are either reprimanded or chided by our superiors if we constantly leave the workplace on time although we are productive at work.

Even if we are not reprimanded, our performance would be targeted and we would be passed over for promotions, bonuses and etc.

The Human Resources Ministry ought to ensure that employees have a choice on overtime work and if it is necessary, they should be compensated as time is money.

This toxic work culture has to stop as it is detrimental to our society. Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran, please take action before our workers work themselves to death.

The ministry should also entertain anonymous calls from overworked employees who want to lodge complaints against their employers.

When there is sufficient evidence that employers are exploiting their employees, they should be made to pay punitive damages to the employees.

To all the detractors out there, having a work-life balance is not unattainable. If we really want to attain a work-life balance, we must fight for it.

And please don’t ask us to integrate our personal life with our work. Work-life integration is just a euphemism for devoting 24/7 of our lives to work.

How can one stay mentally sane when they have to reply to work-related email at ungodly hours and always think of how they can serve their company?

There is a trade-off between work and personal time. The opportunity cost of having quality personal time instead of working is higher as one climbs up the corporate ladder.

One can’t have it all so stop asking us to integrate work and life. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. There is so much more to life than work.


Subang Jaya

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