As the Covid-19 outbreak continues in nations around the world, there is growing concerns over the uptick of cases in South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy.
In Malaysia, local coronavirus cases include Chinese tourists and Malaysians who’ve visited China, Italy and Japan along with a trainee nurse who was exposed to a patient.
As a precautionary step, many Malaysian companies are instructing employees who’ve been to affected countries such as China, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.
While this precautionary step is for the safety of the workplace, there has been some disturbing practices taking place in implementing this. For one, some companies are forcing employees to use their allocated annual leave for this self-quarantine.
The thing is, that’s kinda illegal.
Employers can’t force employees to take annual leave
According to the Human Resources Ministry’s guideline for employers on dealing with coronavirus, employers can’t actually prevent employees who have not received a quarantine order by a registered medical practitioner from attending work.
And if the employee is serving quarantine, employers cannot instruct employees to use their annual leave or take unpaid leave.
Under Section 60E(1) of the Employment Act 1955, Malaysian workers are entitled to annual paid leaves. The amount of days depends on how long you’ve been working in the company.
In fact, employers cannot force employees to use their annual leave at all.
AskLegal even asked the Human Resources Ministry who stated that employers cannot force employees to take annual leave on the employer’s demands.
So when it comes to dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, companies cannot force workers to use their entitled annual leave for quarantine.
However, there are actions advised by the Human Resources Ministry for handling the coronavirus outbreak.
What employers CAN do
- Instruct employees to immediately undergo a health check-up from a registered medical practitioner, paid for by the employer as stipulated in Section 60F of Employment Act 1955.
- Instruct an employee who is unwell to take paid sick leave instead of coming into work.
- Provide paid sick leave or hospitalisation leave to employees who receive quarantine orders from a registered medical practitioner, regardless of quarantine in the hospital or at home.
- Pay full salary to employees who’re issued quarantine order by registered medical practitioners after returning from countries affected by the outbreak.
- Provide extra remuneration over and above employee’s sick leave or hospitalisation leave if they are quarantined.
How to deal with forced annual leave
To clarify this matter, we reached out to the Human Resources Ministry. According to their email, if an employer deducts salary or forces workers to take their annual leave, they can lodge a complaint at the nearest Department of Labour Branch (Check HERE).
If your workplace has a union, the union can directly address the issue with the employers. Otherwise, it could be time to set up and register a workplace union to better protect your rights and improve working conditions.
In the meantime, learn how to protect yourself during an outbreak by reading this article (HERE).
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