Kuala Lumpur, 23 September 2019 — The Ministry of Human Resources’s withdrawal of the proposed provision under the Employment Act 1955 to protect job seekers against discrimination is both a disappointing and alarming development.
“This about-turn on a previously stated commitment to workplace policy reforms, sends a harmful message that it is tolerated and even acceptable for employers to turn away or discriminate against job seekers and job candidates based on the reasons outlined in the provision,” said Azrul Mohd Khalib, Chief Executive of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy.
“Both the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and the Ministry of Youth and Sports should be concerned by the withdrawal of this provision.”
“We foresee that this development will disproportionately affect young people who are just entering the workforce, particularly women.”
“By not providing job seekers protection against discrimination on the basis of marital status and pregnancy, women, especially young women, may be severely disadvantaged.”
“Pregnancy and maternity discrimination are real problems encountered by pregnant women and young mothers. Many employers still feel that a woman should disclose whether she is pregnant during the recruitment process. In fact, it is considered reasonable to ask women about their plans to have children in the future, and whether they have young children,” emphasised Azrul.
Women have encountered situations where their marital status and pregnancy have been considered reasons to not appoint them to positions for which they are qualified to fill.
“Not appointing a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant, should be against the law,” stated Azrul.
“The nature of the objections by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) imply that they lack the vision to invest in developing attitudes and progressive environments which are more appropriate for a country making the transition to a high income economy. We need a workforce which is talented, agile and diverse. We should not be living in the dark ages.”
“This must change. We should be adopting best practices in the workplace environment rather than reinforcing harmful norms which will and continue to disadvantage Malaysia as a country and as a society.”
The proposed amendment under the Employment Act 1955 would have provided individuals, both job seekers and employees, with protection from being discriminated by employers or potential employers on the basis of gender, religion, race, disability, language, marital status and pregnancy.
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