It has been over a week since a new law on workers accommodation came into force, but industries are asking for up to a one-year extension to meet the fresh requirements.
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more time was needed to comply with the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 which took effect on Sept 1.
He said the new regulations that provide specific requirements for employers to comply with were only published on Aug 28, less than a week before the amended law came into force.
“We need at least one year for the government to guide employers. They should not put pressure on us during this trying period, ” he said.
In March, the government announced that all employers must provide accommodation for all their workers in all sectors under the Act including local workers.
The new regulations, among others, require employers and centralised accommodation providers to provide every worker staying in the provided accommodation a single bed measuring not less than 1.7sq m.
If a double-decker bed is provided, the space between two beds shall not be less than 0.7m.
Employers should also provide a mattress of at least four inches thick, a pillow and a blanket and a cupboard with lock (measuring a minimum 0.35m-long, 0.35m-wide, 0.9m-high).
Employers were given three months from June 1 to make arrangements and provide proper accommodation according to guidelines for local and foreign workers in all sectors.
Shamsuddin said specific regulations such as providing thick mattresses and specific sized cupboards “will take time”.
“There is no need to insist on new requirements as long as we provide a conducive environment and comply with the current SOP, ” he said.
“If one had bought a new mattress for an employee a few weeks ago and it is only 3.5 inches thick, does that mean you are not complying with these new regulations.
“Are we expected to change to a new one? If we look at all the specific details, we deserve more time.”
The call of the MEF, which represents the country’s largest employers’ group, follows the appeal made by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) for a one-year extension.
FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai had said that the RM50,000 fine for each offence was too drastic due to the weakened economy, adding that this would severely hamper business revival initiatives of most industries.
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said the body met Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan recently to discuss labour issues and the new law was also brought up.
“It is my view that this is not the right time to enforce the Act as the economy is badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and we are just beginning to breathe.”
“The cost of operating a restaurant has increased as we have to spend extra cash to buy disinfectants, cleaning detergents and conduct regular sanitation to keep the premises clean, ” he said.
Jawahar said the government had also introduced new restrictions on the operating hours of mamak restaurants and this had led to reduced profits.
“Having to provide extra housing perks means extra expenses. I am afraid many cannot afford to follow or provide extra facilities because everything involves cost, ” said Jawahar, adding that the government should postpone the implementation of the law for another year or until the economy improved.
Bina Puri Holdings Bhd group executive director Datuk Matthew Tee said the law had noble intentions but the implementation was not being done at the right time.
“All these measures will result in increased costs, and squeeze margins which are already low and eroded by unaccounted costs caused by the pandemic, ” said Tee, who is the former president of the International Federation of Asian and Western Pacific Contractors’ Association.
INTER group of Companies Chief Executive Officer, Michael Heah added employers should be given time to follow new regulation and not penalized.
“We urge government to give more time to employers and accommodation provider to comply with new regulation.”
“As new specific requirement just published on 28th August, we need more time to ensure that all our accommodations as well as employers’ to adjust and comply with new law.”
“We need to shift our local workers and even foreign workers to new accommodation to comply with headcount requirement, to add additional items to meet with new law.”
“All these will take time to adjust as some items such as cupboards or mattress may not have enough supply in the market since there is an increase in demand.”
“We hope government will extend the implementation of new law especially all industries were greatly hit by Covid-19 pandemic.”
Saravanan could not be reached for comment.
Adapted from The Star, 7 Sept 2020