Laws to be amended to enhance protection for domestic workers

Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran says the bills are scheduled to be tabled in the July meeting of the Dewan Rakyat.

PUTRAJAYA: The human resources ministry will tighten the Employment Act 1955 to better protect domestic workers and prevent workplace discrimination, its minister said.

“We are also looking at an Act by itself for maids,” M Kula Segaran told the media in a special interview at his office ahead of Pakatan Harapan’s first anniversary in power.

“We are going to put in the regulations now, then we are going to have a standalone Act for maids,” he said.

This follows a recent court decision to free the employer of Indonesian domestic helper Adelina Lisao, who died last year of injuries suffered during her employment.

Adelina was found with pus-filled hands and legs and could barely walk. She was also allegedly forced to sleep on the porch with a dog.

The employer, Ambika Shan, 61, had been charged with murder but was granted a full acquittal by the High Court last week after the prosecution requested a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

Her acquittal sparked a backlash from local civic groups as well as Indonesia, which said Ambika’s release meant Adelina had been denied justice.

Asked when this particular Act would see the light of day, the Ipoh Barat MP said: “That one (an Act for maids’ rights) is already in the bigger picture. The big picture is there.”

Asked for specifics, Kula Segaran said: “We don’t want to go into the mechanics but there will be a lot of safeguards for the maids.”

He also said this proposed Act would be discussed alongside relevant stakeholders, ministry officials, the Welfare Department and “other ministries who have got something to say about it”.

This is part of proposed amendments to seven Acts relating to labour rights which are scheduled to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat meeting in July.

Kula Segaran said his “greatest sadness” was not being able to move the amendments to these Acts in the previous meeting of Parliament. This was because it was not easy getting relevant stakeholders’ feedback.

The DAP leader also said two more laws would be tabled in Parliament soon, one related to providing Social Security Organisation (Socso) benefits for the 1.4 million housewives.

He did not mention what the other was.

On proposed regulations for workers living with HIV/AIDS, Kula Segaran, who once said his ministry was discussing laws that would prohibit discrimination against such workers, said: “I think the present law is good enough.”

“The normal regulations apply in the sense, once you are employed, you get all the protection,” he said, adding that action would be taken by his ministry when cases of discrimination were carried out.

Kula Segaran had said in November it was important to “initiate plans” to “mitigate problems at the workplace so that such discrimination (with regards to one’s HIV/AIDS status) can be eliminated”.

One proposal that is difficult to implement now is reducing dependency on foreign labour. Kula Segaran said some industries required a larger labour force that had yet to be filled by locals.

He also said efforts were being made to see how those 60 and above could return to work.