We, in the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (Penang MTUC), take offence with the use of the phrase workers ‘taking sick leave’ in news reports about comments made by the Malaysian Employers Federation president [regarding the purported ‘RM5bn cost of employees’ sick leave‘].
Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Section 60F(1) of the Employment Act 1955 will know that sick leave becomes an entitlement only when granted by a medical practitioner appointed by the employer or by a government medical officer or, in emergency cases, by other registered medical practitioners.
No worker can, as a matter of right, ‘take sick leave’ – unlike annual leave, which is an entitlement.
It is therefore unfounded for MEF president Syed Hussain Syed Husman to insinuate that workers ‘take medical leave’, when the truth is sick leave is granted by a registered medical practitioner based on a medical assessment of the patient.
We in the Penang MTUC believe the MEF president ought to appreciate the provisions of the law and, much more, respect the integrity of the medical practitioners who assess workers’ medical conditions before granting them sick leave.
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The MEF obviously needs to re-evaluate its baseless position on the matter, given the diverse health predicaments of workers: financial distress brought about by low wages, the rising cost of living and, as a consequence, the adverse effect on workers’ mental health; exposure to occupational hazards at the workplace that affect workers’ health; excessive working hours, including overtime work to supplement inadequate minimum wages, causing physical exhaustion. These are among the underlying causes compelling medical practitioners to certify workers as unfit for work.
In the absence of clarity, we would assume the MEF statement also captures sick leave caused by workers’ hospitalisation, including cases of occupational injury and illness. If that is so, we rest our case by simply saying that it amplifies the uncaring, profit-driven mindset of employers, echoed by their mouthpiece, the MEF!
K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress