WAO laments exclusion of job seekers from proposed Employment Act changes

Modified 16 Oct 2019, 8:20 am

The Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) has lamented the exclusion to protect job seekers from discrimination in proposed amendments to the Employment Act.

WAO Advocacy and Communications Officer Tan Heang-Lee questioned the Human Resources Ministry’s decision to leave out job seekers in its review of the 1955 law and warned it could hurt thousands seeking employment each year.

“We are very disappointed by deputy human resources minister's (Mahfuz Omar) announcement that job seekers will not be protected from discrimination under the Employment Act.

“This decision will negatively affect thousands of job seekers each year.

“The argument that the Employment Act cannot cover job seekers does not stand as there is nothing stopping the government from amending the Employment Act to include job seekers,” Tan said in a statement to Malaysiakini.

Tan said it had been previously pointed out there was no legal barrier prohibiting discrimination during the recruitment process under the Employment Act.

She pointed out protecting job seekers would contribute to the government’s objective of increasing women’s participation in the workforce.

“In Budget 2020, the government had announced various efforts to promote women's workforce participation.

“Protecting job seekers from discrimination is critical to achieving this goal as women returning to the workforce often face discrimination during job interviews,” Tan said.

She further claimed many stakeholders had previously voiced support for the inclusion of anti-discrimination protection for job seekers.

Earlier today, Mahfuz told the Dewan Rakyat the ministry was in the midst of reviewing employment laws, specifically those related to discrimination in the workplace.

Mahfuz Omar

However, there were no plans to include job seekers in protection from such discrimination, he said.

This included discrimination against the hiring of pregnant women, the Dewan Rakyat heard.

It was reported last month that the ministry had removed proposed legal provisions to protect against pre-employment discrimination due to objections from the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).

This was as MEF said the law only governed matters concerning an employer and an employee and as such job seekers were not included.

Proposed amendments listed on the ministry’s website had initially stated: “An employer shall not discriminate against a job seeker on the grounds of gender, religion, race, disability, language, marital status and pregnancy.”

This led to former Malaysian Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan refuting MEF’s stance, saying the anti-discrimination provision was essential.

"Including protection for job seekers against discrimination in the Employment Act is not only reasonable but it must be legislated as well. Even in mature democracies, there are adequate laws to ensure equality and non- discrimination," Ragunath had told Malaysiakini then.

Suhakam and civil groups also objected to the removal of the provision.

At the time, however, the ministry said a final decision on the matter had yet to be made.

"It is premature to say that a decision was reached to remove an anti-discrimination provision in recruitment under the Employment Act 1955 when the matter is still under discussion between the ministry and its stakeholders," the ministry had stated.

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