With Covid-19 cases on the rise in Malaysia once more, the authorities has taken swift action to impose a hefty RM50,000 fine on employers to each foreign worker found staying in an overcrowded lodging unit. The sudden and decisive move has shocked major industry players across the country.
The Federation of Malaysia Manufacturers (FMM) said the Human Resources Ministry had already given them the deadline of March next year to comply with Act 446 on the Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations and Amenities.
Therefore, many employers were caught off-guard when Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the penalty would be imposed from 26 November, in a move to ensure Covid-19 transmissions among foreign workers being housed in overcrowded lodgings.
“Employers are making the necessary adjustments, and are in the process of carrying out the necessary changes to comply with the regulations. This sudden change of policy appears to show lack of communication among government agencies,” said FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai.
He said employers needed time to make the necessary changes, including for renovation and application for a permit to convert non-residential spaces to dwelling enclaves.
Apart from requiring employers to provide lodgings including those that allow for social distancing; the government will also be conducting Covid-19 tests on 1.7 million foreign workers in the country.
Mr Soh said FMM has written to the Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan in August, and met him in early September to request for a 12-month grace period for companies to undertake the extensive adjustments following the requirements of the law before the authorities impose punitive action.
Michael Kang, president of the SME Association of Malaysia, also states that the sudden imposition of the fine would kill many businesses in the industry, and that due to the short notice of the fine, employers need time in order to comply. He also added that the authorities should engage all stakeholders to understand the underlying problems first.
Malaysia Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said many employers would “die” faster if the hefty RM50,000 fine were to be imposed for every foreign worker staying in crowded units.
“It is a very expensive price to pay, especially given the current challenges. Why burden the employers further with additional cost during such challenging times?”