It is a pity that Human Resources Minister V Sivakumar is conspicuously silent on complaints that employers are refusing to implement the absolute 45-hour working week under the amendments to the Employment Act 1955.
The minister and his ministry seem to be at loss on the spirit and intent of the legislation on 45 hours of work per week with reference to international labour standards.
Certain employers have reduced the break time of employees from 45 minutes to 30, especially for those who are working on the operations side while maintaining the hours of work which violates the content and spirit of the amended law.
One wonders where such logic is derived from when the amendments were meant to improve the working conditions relating to work-life balance by reducing the hours of work. Instead, the break times have been reduced.
It would be difficult for certain workers who take their meals outside of their company premises, if the break time is reduced, taking into consideration traffic and waiting time when ordering meals.
The amendment has become a suppressive element rather than a liberating substance.
Section 60A (1)(d)(ii) of the Employment Act in no uncertain language provides that an employee who is engaged in work which must be carried out continuously and which requires his or her continued attendance may be required to work for eight continuous hours inclusive of period or periods of not less than 45 minutes in the aggregate to have a meal.
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One of the fundamental aspects of the law is it resides in its spirit which cannot be twisted or reduced from its essence to meet a certain vested interest.
In this context, clarity and references should be provided by the minister so that there could be a common understanding between employers and employees on what is the actual intent of the 45-hour-per-week amendment, and whether the current practice of employers in reducing break times or extending them meets such standards.
The Association for Welfare, Community, and Dialogue (Acid) urges the Ministry of Human Resources to urgently clarify this ambiguity. – Malaysiakini
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