Home Civil Society Voices Embracing diversity: A case for floating holidays for religious minorities

Embracing diversity: A case for floating holidays for religious minorities

Our diversity should be celebrated - DR WONG SOAK KOON/ALIRAN

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Engage is heartened by the call of Tuaran MP Wilfred Madius Tangau to the human resources minister to consider implementing a concept known as “floating holidays” to allow Malaysians with minority heritage to celebrate their cultural and religious festivals just like other citizens from larger ethnic communities.

Engage fully endorses this proposal and further suggests that it be expanded to include the over two million foreign workers who have their own cultural, religious and national days of significance.

Engage is also of the view that current provisions in laws governing public holidays, such as the Holidays Act 1952 and the Employment Act 1955, provide sufficient leeway for employers to implement such floating holidays for their employees.

While employees are entitled to at least 11 public holidays, only five of these are compulsory, with the rest chosen by the employer from the list of gazetted public holidays. Employers and employees can also mutually agree to substitute other days for one or more of the chosen public holidays.

Malaysia is a vibrant tapestry of cultures and faiths that prides itself on inclusivity and harmony. Yet, for many religious minorities, a stark reality exists: navigating a landscape where public holidays often fall outside significant days of their faith or heritage.

Imagine an East Malaysian working in the peninsula wanting to celebrate either the Gawai or Kaamatan festival, or Christians in Johor and Kedah who want to observe Good Friday, or the Sikh community’s Vaisakhi and Guru Nanak’s birthday? They would either have to work on those days or take unpaid leave.

READ MORE:  Moving forward with 'Madani' values in multicultural Malaysia

Engage calls on all employers to foster a respectful and inclusive workplace for the following reasons:

  • A more cohesive and supportive work environment can be achieved when we recognise the diverse heritages of our employees
  • It would boost employee morale and satisfaction when they feel valued and seen, leading to increased job satisfaction and a reduction in absenteeism
  • It would attracting and retain diverse talent in a competitive job market by demonstrating an organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, making it a more appealing employer

Implementing floating holidays is not without concerns. However, we believe these can be effectively addressed through clear policies and open communication. The benefits of extending floating holidays to religious minorities far outweigh any potential challenges.

Engage calls on the “Madani” (civil and compassionate) government to take the lead in promoting the concept of floating holidays to all employers, including the civil service itself, and to extend this benefit to all employees, even those from other countries.

As Malaysia strives to be a truly inclusive nation, embracing this simple yet impactful measure would send a powerful message: celebrating our differences strengthens our bonds and enriches our lives. – Engage

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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