RWC Webinar Impact Series: Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Employment Matters in Malaysia

Senior legal practitioner, Mr. Richard Wee of Richard Wee Chambers, and Brickfields Asia College, hosted yet another informative webinar as part of the Webinar Impact Series, since the announcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO).

The online session held on Monday, April 20th 2020 focused on the current topic of debate in Malaysia: the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic On Employment Matters, which garnered a positive response with over 150 attendees.

The featured panelists included, Mr. Bobby Geh, a HR Consultant based in Penang with over 30 years of experience, and Ms. Rachel Tan, Legal Counsel for MECA, an employers’ consulting agency handling industrial relations and employment matters. They shared key legal points and common issues for the benefits of employers and employees present during the session.

Key areas of discussion were salary adjustments/deferment, unpaid leave, retrenchment, and the rights of employers/employees during these unprecedented times.

Ms. Rachel stressed that employees cannot be compelled to apply for unpaid leave, as such a situation may give rise to a legal action against the employer for constructive dismissal. In terms of salary adjustments due to cash flow issues in a company, she highlighted the need for companies to be guided by ‘principles of rationality and empathy,’ when dealing with pay cuts of low-income wage earners struggling to put food on the table.

Mr Bobby went on further to highlight the state of the law which does not make provisions for substituting salary with the supply of necessities, or a payment in kind, to lower the burden of low-income wage earners.

On the issue of retrenchment, Ms Rachel said, “The right to retrench workers must be exercised with just cause and proper documentation by a company”.

“The MCO per se is not a reason to retrench workers”, she added. In this regard, Mr Bobby pointed out the guiding principles of retrenchment such as the “last in, first out” principle, and the performance matrix. “At the end of the day, the short term and long term goals must be assessed by the company. How will a company survive if it has gotten rid of employees it needs the most?” he said.

To sum up the session, moderator, Mr Richard Wee emphasised that any action by the employer/employee must be done in good faith and within the ambit of the law.