Empowering Women: 2024 Labor Law Reforms

As we enter 2024 we have many aspirations as women and as workers.  The Labour laws were  changed at the end of 2023. The Employment Act was amended. Most of the amendments were positive and we welcome them. The issue of forced labour is now part of the Employment Act. This acknowledges that forced labour is a violation of the Labour law. Previously a worker can work more than 12 hours a day, 7 days a week without drawing much attention.  Now that is being challenged by the Employment Act. Sexual Harassment is also addressed in the Employment Act. There are also many other positive changes to this law.  This is generally a good start to 2024.

The Trade Union Act also has many positive changes in the recent amendments to this labour law.  Malaysia has a shameful statistic for unionised workers – 6%.  This mainly refers to the civil service workers who are members of the trade union comprising about 3 % of unionised workers. In the private sector there are less than 3% of workers who belong to trade unions. Generally private sector workers know extremely little about trade unions. In fact most new workers know little or nothing about trade unions.  They do not know how trade unions can protect workers’ rights. They do not know that trade unions can sign Collective Agreements that improve on their work conditions.

Another aspect of the Collective Agreement is improving on the rights of women workers. How is the workplace giving women workers equal rights to men workers.  This gender aspect of work for women is so easily overlooked in the labour law.

Do women workers get enough toilet breaks in the workplace especially if they are on the production line?  Do other aspects of work take into consideration gender dimensions?     From experience I know gender aspects are usually not taken into consideration unless women demand it.  I wish that 2024 will be significant in advancing the rights of women workers.  Women workers please join a trade union.  If you are already in a trade union please consider taking up a leadership position. Let us make women a significantly active part of the trade union movement.

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