Law reform must include 98 days’ maternity leave, seven days’ paternity leave

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Source: Mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan

The Labour Law Reform Coalition (formerly known as Coalition of 58 Trade Unions and NGOs) urges the government to ensure labour law reforms to include 98 days’ paid maternity leave and seven days’ paid paternity leave.

We are puzzled that the Employment Act amendment proposed by the Ministry of Human Resources stated that women workers will enjoy 98 day’s maternity leave with 75 days paid by employers. This makes 98 days meaningless as women workers have to return to work after 75 days to make end meets.

The watered-downed proposal on maternity leave not only perpetuates discrimination against women at workplace, but also fails to address the larger issue of the gender gap in the country.

Until 2019, women occupied 24.4% of key management positions in the top 100 listed companies, and only 14% of members of parliament are women.

Moreover, the lack of maternity protection will defeat the government’s target stated in the mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan, which aims to increase female participation in the labour force from 54.7% in 2017 to 59% in 2020.

The insignificant increment of female participation from 54.3% in 2016 to 54.7% in 2017 shows the target of the mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan is not realistic without strong intervention from the government.

The coalition calls upon the government to give a minimum of seven days’ paternity leave for Malaysian fathers in the upcoming Employment Act amendments. It is very important that mothers are accompanied by their husbands in the first week of giving birth.

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We will work together with other trade unions and civil society partners to campaign for seven days of paternity leave. We urge all Malaysians to sign the online petition for seven days’ paternity leave, initiated by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), for a work-life balance for Malaysian families.

N Gopal Kishnam and Irene Xavier are the co-chairpersons of the Labour Law Reform Coalition.

Formerly known as the Coalition of 58 TradeUnions and NGOs, the Labour Law Reform Coalition is endorsed by 58 trade unions from various sectors and worker organisations. The group started as a decent work working group in June 2018 to initiate discussions on labour law reform based on the ILO’s decent work framework. The coalition submitted proposals for reforming the Employment Act 1955, the Trade Unions Act 1959 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967 in January and May 2019 respectively.

The leadership reviewed its structure and renamed it in July 2019 to reflect the objective of the coalition

N Gopal Kishnam is the general-secretary of the National Union of Transport, Equipment and Allied Industry Workers. He is the immediate past secretary-general of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.

Irene Xavier is a veteran social activist who founded Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor. She has been fighting for the rights ofwomen worker for decades.

The secretariat of the coalition is IndustriALL Malaysia Council and Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation.

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