In a significant development for the Malaysian state of Sabah, the Sabah Labour Ordinance is poised for a transformative upgrade, as an eagerly awaited Amendment Bill is expected to be unveiled in the lower house of the Parliament of Malaysia, Dewan Rakyat, in 2024, signaling a dedicated effort to enhance the protection and welfare of workers in the state and the provision of additional time for a comprehensive review of labor-related matters.
The bill, which includes 16 proposed amendments, stands to benefit approximately 2.04 million workers and over 187,000 employers in the state.
The proposed amendments encompass issues like sexual harassment, discrimination prevention, eradication of forced labor, enhancements to provisions concerning children and young persons, and revisions to maternity and paternity leave, among others. Proposed changes include extending maternity leave from 60 to 98 days and paternity leave from three to seven days.
Initially scheduled for November 2023, the tabling of the amendment bill was delayed as the ministry fine-tuned it to address all relevant aspects. The draft of the Bill has been completed and is currently under review by the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).
Once AGC approval is secured, the bill will proceed to the cabinet before being introduced in Parliament. Due to the substantial changes involved in the amendments, it is crucial to allocate sufficient time to ensure the proposal is comprehensive.
In October 2022, the Sabah Cabinet greenlit the proposed amendment to align the Sabah Labour Ordinance with the Employment Act 1955, marking the first revision since 2005.
The infrequency of amendments to the Ordinance since 1965, with only one update in 2005, contrasts with the Employment Act 1955, amended 12 times. Aligning provisions with the Employment Act is crucial to ensuring that workers in Sabah enjoy equivalent protection to their counterparts in the peninsula.