Embracing Employment Changes

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By Melissa Norman

The recent amendments to the Employment Act will soon see the working hours being reduced from 48 hours to 45 hours, effective on Sept 1.
This is in line with the International  Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention and aims to safeguard workers’ welfare.
The announcement is receiving mixed responses from various groups and unions.
Some agree that it would give employees more time to rest and generally improve their condition, leading to enhanced work quality, while others say that the new regulation would affect companies that operate round-the-clock and disrupt their pandemic recovery journeys. 
That aside, perhaps what we should focus more on is that these amendments would also allow employees to work flexible hours, where they get to choose the location, time and days of work,  and will also include flexibility to work from home during emergencies such as the COVID-19  pandemic.
In order to do this, employees will be required to apply for a flexible working arrangement (FWA)  – either during their working hours, or working days, or to change their working location – from their employers through a written request.
Employers will then have 60 days to respond, where they have to clearly state whether the application is approved or rejected and the reasons for rejection.
An online survey by Qualtrics revealed that about 62 per cent of full-time workers in Malaysia preferred working flexibility rather than a short working week of four days, which is consistent with the results from the entire Southeast Asian region, which is about 60 per cent. 
Flexible working has been known to reduce employee stress and burnout, promoting healthy harmonisation between work and personal lives. 
However, some companies are known to be reluctant to allow this, even when their operation nature does not require them to be in the office five or six days a week.
The effect can be seen especially once the Movement Control Order has been relaxed, where there has been a massive increase in traffic jams during peak hours once companies are allowed to return to the office. 
This is understandable, as Malaysian companies are new to adopting flexible working, and serious issues can arise without the right policies.
For instance, some employers might feel like it is hard to trust their employees who are working remotely, and tracking employees’ productivity can also feel trickier.
Meanwhile, employees can feel overworked as the line between work and life gets blurred with remote working. 
The amendments might be a good first step for Malaysian companies in creating a culture conducive to flexible work arrangements, further allowing them to embrace the mindset change needed to make flexible work arrangements possible and beneficial for their people and organisation.  

About the author: Melissa Norman pictured above is the founder and managing director of Aisling Group. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.

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