Vast majority of Malaysians favour policies supporting workplace gender equality – Survey

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New research has shown that the vast majority of Malaysians are in favour of policies that would foster a more gender equal workplace.

The research, conducted by Vase.ai in collaboration with Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Undi18, and Architects of Diversity, reveals widespread support for increased paid maternity and paternity leave policies to create a fair working environment for women, and policies to encourage fathers and mothers to equally share in care and domestic responsibilities.

Parliament should act swiftly in its next session to table and pass the proposed amendments to the Employment Act, which encompass these policies that have been found to enjoy the support of a vast majority of citizens.

Paid paternity leave for fathers

Seventy per cent of Malaysians believe that paid paternity leave for fathers should increase. The proposed amendments to the Employment Act would introduce three days of paid paternity leave for the private sector, where there is currently no paid paternity leave. The WAO continues to push for a minimum of seven days of paid paternity leave.

Increased maternity leave for mothers

Seventy five per cent of Malaysians agree that the total paid maternity leave for mothers should increase.

Currently the Employment Act provides 60 days of paid maternity leave for the private sector, which the proposed amendments would increase to 90 days, in line with the International Labour Organization’s recommended minimum standard.

Protections against gender and pregnancy discrimination

The new survey results reveal that the vast majority of Malaysians are in favour of policies that would work to eliminate gender discrimination and create a more gender equal workplace.

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Ninety-one per cent of Malaysians agree that more policies should be in place to create a fair working environment for women, such as a nursing room for new mothers. Additionally, 84% of Malaysians agree that more policies should be in place for women to be granted the same job opportunities as men, while 83% of Malaysians agree that more policies are needed to ensure women are paid equally for the same work as men.

The proposed amendments to the Employment Act already include a prohibition of gender discrimination against employees, which means employers would no longer be able to discriminate against women in the workplace, such as through limiting opportunities for advancement for women or by hindering women from equally participating in the workplace by failing to provide necessary facilities. The provisions also include protection against termination for pregnant women.

While a critical measure, these protections must also be extended to job seekers, since many women are currently discriminated against in the recruitment and interview stage on the basis of their gender or pregnancy status.

Flexible working hours

Eighty-six per cent of Malaysians agree that more policies should be in place to encourage fathers and mothers to equally share in care and domestic responsibilities. A more equal sharing of responsibilities would be facilitated by the availability of flexible working hours for both parents, which the proposed Employment Act amendments allow employees to request.

Protection against sexual harassment

Eighty-nine per cent of Malaysians agree that more policies are needed to ensure women are not subjected to sexual harassment in any context, including the workplace. While the proposed amendments to the Employment Act will include protections against sexual harassment in the workplace, the proposed Sexual Harassment Bill – slated for the Parliament session – aims to address sexual harassment in all contexts, from universities to public spaces.

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By tabling and passing the proposed amendments to the Employment Act in November, Parliament has the opportunity to implement policies that are widely supported by Malaysians towards closing the gender gap in employment.

The final sample included 1,027 responses. Respondents aged 18 and above were quota sampled according to census statistics by race, gender, age and region of residence.

The full survey results may be viewed here

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