At the time of writing, there are approximately 129 reported cases of the COVID-19 (a.k.a coronavirus) outbreak in Malaysia. As the second wave of this global pandemic hits us, several companies have already started giving employees permission to work from home, and medical benefits to curb the spread of this virus.
Now, the Human Resource Ministry has announced guidelines to companies and employers, on how to deal with employment issues—such as sick leaves and medical examinations—for their employees.
So here’s a list of what the Guideline states, which your employer may not be complying with.
1. Employers can’t force employees to take leave
Imagine this: You come to work one day, sniffling away due to your sinuses. But as soon as you enter the office, you notice that all your colleagues start staying away from you—as everyone is paranoid over the COVID-19 outbreak.
Things then get worse when your boss asks you to take leave for the next 1 week, as a safety precaution. Now based on the guidelines by the Human Resource Ministry, your boss is not allowed to prevent you from coming to work, if you have not been given a quarantine order by a registered medical practitioner (a doctor).
Basically, your boss cannot ask you to go home (even if you wanted to) because you might not exactly be down with the virus—which requires a quarantine order. However, this does not mean you can come in to work when you’re sick.
Employers can still instruct unwell employees not to attend work by providing paid sick leave to them. As an employee, you’re entitled to medical leave if you’re not feeling well. Section 60F of the Employment Act 1955 states as such:
Every employee is entitled to a minimum of 14 days of sick leave per year (If you’ve worked less than 2 years). The total number of sick leaves you can take would increase over the years you work.
2. Employers must pay for medical expenses
Employees who return from countries that carry a high number of COVID-19 cases, should also be examined (at the expense of the employer/company). The said employees are also entitled to sick leave under Section 60F of the Employment Act, as we mentioned earlier in the article.
There are also some companies that go to the extent of setting travel advisories for their employees, to monitor the spread of the COVID-19. Companies can basically set internal policies such as getting employees to declare any travel plans to the company.
Some companies are also enforcing the work-from-home policy if a particular employee has been to China. However, if your employer wants you to come to work during this period, he must ensure your safety and welfare at work.
Section 15(1) of the Occupational Safety & Health Act 1994 states:
The Act essentially states that the employer is responsible for the welfare of his employees and must take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of his employees. This can even be done by conducting health checks on employees and sanitizing the workplace.
Apart from that, your company must also bear the cost of your medical expenses if you come back from countries with a widespread of the outbreak. In the event you need to be hospitalized, you should check with your company if they provide hospitalization benefits for employees.
3. Companies can’t ask employees to use their annual leave
It is illegal for employers to ask their employees to utilize their annual leaves, in the event they’re tested positive for the COVID-19. This is simply because, annual leaves are an employee’s right.
Annual leaves are paid leaves which are stated under Section 60E(1) of the Employment Act 1955:
Based on the Act, the amount of days you get depends on how long you’ve been working for the company. These annual leaves are your right as an employee and can be taken for any reason.
Any employer who forces their employee to take annual leave—in the event the employee has been given quarantine orders—is said to be going against the guidelines set by the Human Resource Ministry for the COVID-19 outbreak. Employers are also prohibited from considering the employee’s quarantine period as unpaid leave—which means the employee is entitled to his full salary.
But if you feel you’ve been forced to take annual leave despite having a quarantine order, you can make a complaint to the Ministry of Human Resource on their site or call them on their 24-hour hotline: +603-8000 8000.
But companies can still enforce their own policies too
Now before you barge into your boss’ office and tell him he’s breaking the law, here’s something you should know. The Guidelines are merely recommendations set by the Human Resource Ministry to help curb the virus’ outbreak.
However, some recommendations are part of the Employment Act, as mentioned earlier in the article. But there are certain things that can differ from one company to another—such as the travel declarations being made—as not all companies might require their employees to do so.
So while these guidelines are not legally enforceable, companies are still obliged to ensure their employees are given the necessary hospitalization and sick leaves, if they need it.
In the meantime, you can do your part to curb the virus from spreading by simply washing your hands for 20 seconds to these lyrics: