Thursday, August 25, 2022

Amendments To The Employment Act, 1955 - Reduction Of Weekly Working Hours To 45 Hours

Amendments To The Employment Act, 1955 - Reduction Of Weekly Working Hours To 45 Hours

It has been brought to the attention of MTUC Penang Division, that the Jabatan Tenaga Kerja(JTK) Ministry Of Human Resources is advising employers that they can EXCLUDE meal breaks in determining the reduced weekly working hours of 45 hours pursuant to the amended Section 60A of the Employment Act, 1955 which comes into force effective 1.9.2022.

In essence what the JTK is misrepresenting is that the current working hours, of 48 hours per week be maintained just by a sledge of hand in deducting the meal breaks of 45 minutes in the aggregate whereas the intention of Parliament, as we are given to believe, is to reduce the absolute weekly working hours to 45 hours. 

Having regards to the provisions of Section 60A of the Employment Act, 1955, it is our considered opinion that, nowhere, in the said section is there an explicit provision that EXCLUDES meal breaks in determining the weekly working hours of workers. On the contrary Section 60A(1)(d)(ii) of the Employment Act, 1955 in no uncertain language provides that :-

"an employee who is engaged in work which must be carried on continuously and which requires his continued attendance may be required to work for eight continuous hours INCLUSIVE of a period or periods of not less than forty-five minutes in the aggregate to have a MEAL".

(INCLUSIVE and MEAL in capital ours)

Given the indisputable fact that workers are engaged, by the very nature of their employment in work which must be carried on continuously and requiring their continued attendance (as an appropriate example workers required to work on rotating shifts and in assembly lines) there can be no other interpretation save that a 45  minutes break, to enable them to have a MEAL, is INCLUSIVE of the amended 45 hour weekly working hours. On this issue we wish to emphasis that the 45 minutes break is mandated, solely, for the workers  to avail themselves of the opportunity to have a meal and "not free to dispose of his own time and movements" as provided under Section 60A(9) of the Employment Act, 1955.

Given the plain language of the law, we are baffled as to how the Jabatan Tenaga Kerja is misleading employers to surmise meal breaks as EXCLUSIVE of the amended 45 hours working week.

We believe that the Minister Of Human Resources, in moving the motion to reduce working hours, was guided by the objective of reducing real time spent by workers at the workplace. Since, that is the obvious objective,  employers should not be permitted to circumvent the said amendment on the basis of the misplaced advise of the JTK as such a proposition is diametrically opposed to the objectives of the said amendments to strike a work life balance of the working citizens.

In our view the reduction, of hours spent at the workplace, must be real and not illusionary. It must, in reality, translate to a 45 hours working week inclusive of meal breaks and nothing less! 

To maintain the current status quo i.e. the weekly 48 hours and, yet, content that it is permissible just by deducting the statutory 45 minutes meal break is, in our view, nothing short of Idiocracy!

We, therefore, implore upon the Honourable Minister Of Human Resources to direct his officers at the Jabatan Tenega Kerja to stop their misrepresentation of the progressive objectives of the said amendment least we stand to be shamed as hypocrites in the matter!

K. Veeriah


Malaysian Trade Union Congress

Penang Division

016 4184520