Prioritise new law on domestic workers, Tenaganita tells govt

Civil society group Tenaganita says there is a need for separate legislation to increase protection for domestic workers.

PETALING JAYA: A civil society group is pushing for the speedy legislation of a new law specifically to protect the rights of domestic workers, in the wake of a court’s acquittal of a woman previously charged with murdering her Indonesian maid.

Tenaganita executive director Glorene A Das welcomed the new law announced by Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran, calling it necessary and important due to the “unique nature” of domestic work.

“There is an underlying need for rights protection based on violations we have already seen,” she told FMT, adding that her organisation had been working with the Domestic Workers Coalition for several years now to prepare a draft bill.

“Because cases of domestic workers are becoming increasingly complex, having one law that covers the entirety of domestic work and potential issues that may arise in this line of employment is needed to speed up the legislation process and increase domestic workers’ access to justice.

“We definitely want significant changes, and we hope the ministry gives importance and takes cognisance of it,” she added.

Kula Segaran announced Putrajaya’s commitment to a standalone act for domestic workers earlier this week but provided no details on the bill or how soon it would be tabled in Parliament.

He also said interim measures would be taken to ensure the welfare of domestic workers, including amending the Employment Act 1955.

His comments followed the High Court’s decision to acquit Ambika MA Shan of murder over the death of her maid, Adelina Lisao, in February last year.

Glorene said Kula Segaran had been talking about the amendment since 2018.

“Basically, (it would) change the word ‘maid’ to ’employee’, but is that supposed to guarantee the protection of domestic workers? That is a big question for us,” she said.

Agreeing on the interim nature of the move, she reiterated the need for separate legislation to increase protection for domestic workers, including locals.

She said Tenaganita and the Domestic Worker Campaign Coalition had given Kula Segaran a draft domestic worker bill for review.

“We really hope that we will be called for more consultation and discussion,” she added.