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WAO wants to boost anti-discrimination, maternity and paternity leave measures

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The Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) hopes the government will push through several proposed amendments to the Employment Act 1955, which will include anti-discrimination measures, increasing maternity leave and introducing paternity leave.

It also proposed several improvements to the current proposals.

"As the amendments to the Employment Act are still being finalised, we urge the government to keep these amendments on the agenda and to table them in Parliament this July.

"We also call on MPs to support and pass these amendments," it said in a statement.

WAO said among the proposed changes, according to a draft in March, are to extend the maternity leave from 60 to 98 days and introduce three days of paternity leave.

The amendments will also protect job-seekers from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, marital status, gender, race, religion, disability, and language.

WAO noted that based on its survey, 40 percent of pregnant women said they faced discrimination in the workplace.

The improvements will also allow employees to request flexible working hours, subject to the employers' approval.

WAO added that further improvements can also be made to the proposed changes.

It proposed prohibiting discrimination based on "parental status", besides pregnancy and gender.

"This will ensure that parents - both mothers and fathers - are legally protected from discrimination, not just during pregnancy, but also after they have children," it said.

Furthermore, WAO said employees who face discrimination should also be compensated, compared to the current proposal of only imposing a fine of up RM50,000 on employers.

"Punishing the employer doesn’t directly help the victim, especially if the victim has been affected financially due to loss of employment. Hence, the law should also allow for compensation," it said.

WAO also suggested that the proposed paternity leave of three days be increased to seven days, which is the number of days already enjoyed by fathers in the public sector.

"As a comparison, in Singapore, fathers are entitled to 14 days of paid paternity leave," it said.

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