After backlash over sick leave, MEF clarifies it was advising employers to be ‘responsible’

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 — The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has clarified that it was advocating for “responsible employers” in previous remarks highlighting the billions of ringgit ostensibly lost to workers’ sick leave last year.

In an interview with Malay Mail, MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan described “responsible employers” as those who not only meet legal obligations by following rules and regulations, but also aspire to give their employees the best experience of working.

“We (MEF) want employers to be responsible in terms of looking after the welfare and wellbeing of their employees,” said MEF vice-president Nik Mustapha Nik Mohamed who was also present.

“And at the same time, we want to make sure employees are productive.”

Higher productivity will help the local economy and attract foreign investment, he added.

According to Shamsuddin, productivity is hurt when workers have to take sick leave often.

However, he explained that providing employees with friendly work environments could help minimise the phenomenon.

The MEF requested the interview following criticism of its president, Datuk Syed Hussain Syed Husman, reportedly claiming that Malaysian employers lost RM5 billion because of sick leave last year.

Syed Hussain said sick leave was taking a heavy financial toll on companies and preventing businesses from reaching their full potential.

In the interview, Shamsuddin explained that Syed Hussain had meant to highlight the opportunity cost to both employers and employees, which could be avoided or minimised.

Citing companies that provide gym facilities and allow their employees to move around and play games, Syed Hussain said some outlay on the part of companies to ensure employee wellbeing could pay off in the long run.

“So, if your company is, for example, very rigid and not very flexible, many employees will always call in sick,” he said.

Nik Mustapha added that MEF was not opposing employee benefits, but was instead looking for ways to cultivate responsible employers and productive employees.

“Responsible employers and productive employees will make a good country,” he said.

On the subject of irresponsible employers, Shamsuddin said that they should be prosecuted if they violate any laws and that MEF would not stand behind them.

Earlier this month, MEF reportedly said that companies will be discouraged from offering internships due to the government’s proposal that interns should be paid an allowance.

In December last year, it reportedly claimed that the new minimum wage of RM1,500 will cause a sudden increase in costs, which will burden employers, prompting fears that many employers will lay off workers to avoid going out of business.