KUALA LUMPUR: The amendments to the Employment Act 1955 that were scheduled to be implemented on Sept 1 have instead been put off to Jan 1 next year.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan said the extension should give industry players enough time to recover from the pandemic and foreign labour shortage.

“Stakeholders and industry players unanimously asked for the delay as they are in the economic recovery stage.

“The matter was also brought to the Cabinet and they had agreed to the postponement,” he told a press conference at the Wisma HRD Corp here yesterday.

Among the key amendments are the extension of maternity leave from 60 days to 98 days, paternity leave from three to seven days, and reduced weekly working hours from 48 to 45 hours.

Saravanan said businesses wanted the reduced working hours enforcement to be delayed, saying it would affect productivity and output as there was a shortage of foreign workers in the country.

He said issues surrounding foreign workers had been resolved with source countries, while delays in the workers coming in was due to the process involved after a three-year hiatus.He also said his ministry was currently looking for an alternative term to pekerja asing (foreign worker).

“We are looking at some other definitions such as immigrant worker and we are hoping to come up with a new term soon.

“When it comes to workers, we cannot discriminate, we are doing our best to move from Tier 3 to Tier 2 (in the US Trafficking in Persons Report) and to avoid forced labour. Therefore, we shouldn’t discriminate against any employees, regardless of whether they’re local or foreign,” he said.

Saravanan added that more awareness programmes on the new amendments will be done via roadshows by the Peninsular Malaysia Labour Department.

The amendments to the Act were passed during the Parliament meeting in March, and other key changes include employees being required to have the flexibility to choose the location, time and days of work. This would include flexibility to work from home during emergencies such as the pandemic.