Women trade union group in Malaysia calls for 98 days of maternity leave

Wanita Industrial Malaysia (WIM), a trade union coalition representing female workers, has urged the government to mandate 98 days of maternity leave.
By: | March 26, 2021

The trade union coalition has also said asked the government to introduce an anti-sexual harassment law. 

Representing thousands of female workers in the manufacturing sector in West Malaysia, WIM has urged the government to immediately ratify Convention 183 and Convention 190 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for the protection of women’s rights pertaining to maternity leave and sexual harassment, respectively. 

Convention 183 on maternity protection requires the government to guarantee 98 days (14 weeks) paid maternity leave, which is an international standard when the ILO passed the Convention in 2000.  

However, in Malaysia, women workers in the private sector only get 60 days paid maternity leave under the Employment Act 1955, while their counterparts in the public sector get 90 days maternity leave, said the group’s joint-chairpersons Idawati Idrus and Selvakumari Abraham, in a statement. 

In comparison to neighbouring countries, paid maternity leave in the Philippines is 105 days, while that in Thailand is 98 days, they added. 

This shows that Malaysia’s existing laws have failed to meet the international standards and are clearly outdated. 

On the issue of sexual harassment, WIM said the Malaysia Trade Union Congress (MTUC) and Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) rejected Convention 190 on terrorism and (sexual) harassment, while the Malaysian government took a neutral stance at the ILO conference in Geneva in June 2019. 

The statement said the new leaders of the tripartite bodies have yet to make known their position on the issue of ratification of Convention 190. 

“Ratification of Convention 190 is important because Malaysian laws are currently insufficient to combat sexual harassment in the workplace and in public spaces,” the statement said.  

“The Employment Act 1955 places all responsibility on employers in sexual harassment investigations, but this mechanism is not sufficient to protect the rights of women workers because if superiors in the workplace are the perpetrators of sexual harassment, generally, the management will side with the superiors. The government should understand the unequal power relationship in the workplace, and try to solve the root cause of the problem.” 

READ: World Bank urges Malaysia to increase female labour participation

The joint-chairpersons said that after ratifying Convention 190, the government should enact or amend laws to prevent gender-based violence and sexual harassment at the workplace. 

“We call on the government to at least strengthen the sexual harassment investigation mechanism in the Employment Act 1955, and we fully support the initiative to enact a separate anti-sexual harassment Act,” they said, according to Daily Express.