Don’t rush women back to workforce, says group

The [email protected] initiative announced in the 2020 Budget aims to create 33,000 job opportunities for women to return to work.

PETALING JAYA: A women’s rights organisation wants more efforts to encourage women back into the workplace although it said the [email protected] programme, introduced in the 2020 Budget announcement today, is a good step.

The chief executive officer of the Women’s Institute of Management (WIM), Nellie Tan, said the [email protected] programme is a good initiative to implement, but it is also not right to just push the women back into the workforce.

“Their absence from the workforce can mean they are not used to the advancements, such as in technology,” Tan told FM.

She said it has to be a “restrained process” so the women can return and actively take part without feeling left out.

Presenting the Budget proposals earlier, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the [email protected] initiative aims to create 33,000 job opportunities a year for women who have stopped working for a year or more and are between 30 and 50 years old.

The initiative will provide a wage incentive of RM500 a month for two years, while employers will receive a hiring incentive of up to RM300 a month. In addition, the women returning to work will be exempted from income tax for four years up to 2023.

Tan said that for those willing to return to work, the government should provide a programme to train them in the new working environment.

Foreign Spouses Support Group lead coordinator Bina Ramanand said it is important to educate employers to not be discriminatory when it comes to rehiring women, even though a financial programme like [email protected] is a good step.

“Sometimes, employers discriminate women based on the number of children they have,” she said.

Executive director of Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) Sumitra Visvanathan welcomed the initiative, saying it will encourage and enable women to return to work.

“For years, we’ve known that Malaysia needs to improve its female labour force participation, both to build the economy and ensure  women’s economic rights,” Sumitra said.

“I’m glad the government is putting in some financial commitment towards achieving this.”

90 days’ maternity leave mulled

On Lim’s announcement that the Employment Act 1955 will be reviewed to extend maternity leave from 60 to 90 days effective 2021, Bina asked whether it would be paid maternity leave.

“Why only 2021, why not next year? This is the 2020 Budget, right?” she asked.

Sumitra said that while an increase in maternity leave is welcomed, it is hoped that it will be paid leave as well.

“We also urge the government to introduce at least seven days of paternity leave in the private sector, similar to the current policy in the public sector,” she said.

Previously, only workers in the public sector can enjoy 90 days maternity leave while those in the private sector do not.