Due to the second MCO, most of us are probably forced to work from home again. We would probably welcome being able to avoid the commute to work, and that most meetings can be done on Zoom, pants optional.
But if you went through the WFH experience last year too, you’d probably notice one drawback: your electricity bills going up. And if you’re sharing your house with other people who are working from home too, your monthly bill probably went up exponentially.
But since you’re ‘working’, technically...can you claim your electricity bill from your employer? After all, it’s definitely for work, and not for Netflix.
Only if your company agrees to it
Unless your company policy covers this situation, you probably can’t claim for your rising electricity bills (sorry).
In general, employers are required to provide certain benefits to their employees. This is governed by the Employment Act 1955, which probably explains why WFH benefits aren’t included.
Under the Act, employers are required to give the following benefits:
- Annual leave
- Sick leave
- Maternity leave
- Lay-off benefits
Any other benefits such as travel allowance and medical insurance are optional, and not required under the law. So unless your employer agrees to offer those perks, it’s unlikely that you can claim the expenses for working from home.
Do note that the Act only covers employees who earn below RM2,000 and manual laborers regardless of pay. If you earn above that, or you’re not a manual laborer, it will depend on your employment contract. Even if you’re not covered under the Act, it’s used by employers as the baseline when creating contracts for employees not eligible for it.
These laws are also only applicable for Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan. Sabah and Sarawak rely on the Sabah Labour Ordinance and Sarawak Labour Ordinance respectively.
Some countries are giving benefits for WFH
As lockdown measures are imposed worldwide, some countries have started to make bosses pay for their employees extra cost for working from home.
In Holland, the Dutch authorities have started offering their bureaucrats a €363 (RM1,782) covid “bonus” for working from home. This is based on a research by NIBUD, and the bonus covers expenses such as tea, coffee, toilet paper, electricity, water and the depreciation cost of your desk and chair.
In Spain, employers are obliged to pay for home office maintenance and equipments. Germany are working on a law to make working from home a legal right. Few years back, France has made it law that employees can ignore emails sent after working hours.
When will Malaysia implement similar laws?
For now, Malaysia has not implemented such laws yet. The only concrete thing we have now is a tax exemption of up to RM5,000 for purchasing ICT equipments for work. The way forward seems to be for employers and employees to come to a compromise on the cost.
The Malaysian Trade Union Council’s deputy president Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani said that if a company can afford it, they can provide items such as laptops to their employees, as is the case for employees working in an office. Or both parties could also come to a compromise where the employee uses their own desktop, with the company paying part of the electricity and internet bill.
So until the government has made these things law, we’ll just have to negotiate with our bosses to make working from home...work.