With Malaysian women comprising of over half of the total national workforce, the 90 days maternity leave proposed during the Budget 2020 has raised concerns for various parties.
Taylor’s University recently held a forum, Malaysian Women in the Workforce: Budget 2020 and the Complexities of the 90-Day Maternity Leave Proposal, which discussed different impacts and challenges on the social, psychological and financial cost involved in this proposal and ways to reduce these complexities.
From a small-medium enterprise (SMEs) perspective, president of the Malaysian SME Association, Datuk Michael Kang shared that the lack of resources and proper planning will affect SMEs.
To reduce this impact, he suggested that one of the ways is to discuss, with the government, ways to ensure that all parties benefit from this proposal. “One of the ways that both sides can benefit from this proposal is if it was covered by the Employees Insurance Scheme (EIS). There are enough funds for female employees to claim here,” he explains.
Executive vice president from the Equity Markets, AmInvestments Bank Bhd, Gan Kim Khoon added that complexities will arise in the workplace for these women and co-workers that would be tasked the extra work.
“Everyone is given a target to reach at the start of the year. This can’t be adjusted as it will affect the overall bank’s target. If the employee goes on leave and their performance are affected, how should we assess them?” he asked.
However, with the 60 days maternity leave, women have no time to establish her role as a mother, bond with her child and take care of herself properly.
Obstetrician and gynaecologist in Pantai Hospital, Dr. Premitha Damodaran explained the importance of extra time for the mother before returning to work.
“In pregnancies, there is now a fourth trimester for the mother to return to their former self before they make a decision to go back to work or do other things. With 60 days, it’s all about the baby. Where is the mother? This is a time for her to look after herself,” she explained.
She suggested that women should be given the option to gradually come back to the workforce after getting into a routine and settling down.
Without the adequate amount of time, women would constantly battle with the guilt of spending time with her family and her job, which results in most women resigning to care for her family.
As of 2019, Taylor’s University has given female employees the benefit of 90 days paid maternity leave plus the option to have 90 days unpaid maternity leave. As a result, all the women who have taken maternity leave returned to the workplace.
Managing partner at Dharmen Sivalingam & Partners, Dharmen Sivalingam added that the characteristics of every human being is fixed by the 3rd year of their life. “If that is true, I certainly want my citizens to be of good character. I’d want to mould the person to become an outstanding person for the whole country or the world,” he explained.
According to Senior Country Representative for the US-ASEAN Business Council Tina Jamaluddin, the 90 days maternity leave would affect, not just the mother and the company, but the society and economy in general.
She advocated the need for the society to have a shift in mindset when it comes to child and elderly care. “With the society’s traditional mindset, the pressure is on the woman to take this obligation. We need to re-evaluate for us to have shared responsibility… or we’ll lose out on attracting the best employees,” she said.
While the 90 days maternity leave proposal shows much promise, there is a need for all parties to plan and prepare for the different implications. “We just need to deal with the short-term pain for a long-term gain,” said Lim Yee Keong, Director SME Banking, Affin Bank. “There must be a solution where all parties can come together to prepare instead of giving excuses.”
DID YOU KNOW?
A female does not need to be working at the time of confinement to benefit from this. However, there are three main conditions for a woman to be entitled this benefit:
1. You would need to work at least 90 days prior to confinement.
2. You would need to work at least 1 day in the last 4 months prior to confinement.
3. This would only apply if you have less than 5 surviving children.
My maternity leave has not ended BUT I really want to go back to work! Can I shorten my leave period?
Even with consent from the female employee to come back to work before her maternity leave is up, it is not possible to waive her rights as it is prohibited by law. This is so the employee is not pressured to go back to work but rather, transition back into the workplace at a more relaxed pace.
What will be done if the employer does not comply to this?
There are two ways the labour department can find out if a company does not comply to the standard maternity leave given. An employee complains or the labour department does audits on the company.
If a company does get caught, 60 days’ worth of salary to the employee and a fine to the labour department has to be given.