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FMM: Suspend annual foreign worker medical exam until authorities can justify rationale in policy change

FMM In The News: FOCUS MALAYSIA, February 1, 2024 - THE Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has called on the authorities to suspend the implementation of the annual foreign worker medical examination.

This is until the Health Ministry and the Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency Sdn Bhd (FOMEMA) convene a proper stakeholder consultation to explain the rationale for the change in policy, present the regulatory impact assessment and more importantly allow the industry the opportunity to provide their views and recommendations, said the manufacturers group.

It is noted via a publicly-circulated internal memo of the Immigration Department that the department would start enforcing the policy change for the renewal of work permits with effect from Feb 1, 2024.

“The industry is very frustrated on how this matter has been dealt with by the authorities despite the many and repeated calls from associations for the policy change to be suspended pending a proper stakeholder consultation,” said FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai.

“Mandating a yearly health screening for the workers is seen as an excessive requirement as the industry strongly believes that the previous health screening frequency with the mandatory screening for the first three years and subsequent checks done on alternate years of employment is sufficient to monitor the health conditions of the workers and detect any communicable diseases that the workers may have contracted or any serious illness.”

Soh noted that in addition, the workers are also subjected to the full suite of medical tests during these health screenings unlike how it is done in Singapore where the health screening for work permit renewals is based on a scaled-down number of essential tests.

He said instead of mandating annual tests, the authorities should only impose the condition for a full test if the workers return to their home country in between for a holiday where the health screening must be done at the point of their return.

“The additional screening which is estimated to cost the sector an additional RM500 mil over a span of 10 years could instead be redirected towards other health and wellness programmes and initiatives for the workers,” Soh asserted.

“The industry believes that the concerns on the rise in communicable diseases brought in by foreign workers is very likely due to the high number of undocumented or illegal foreign workers in the country who do not undergo any health screening or are likely those workers who absconded from their employers after having failed their medical examination and deemed unfit for work at the point of their initial arrival to the country.

“It is unfair to impose such burden on employers when the problem may not arise from the legal workers in the system.”

In this regard, Soh said the crux of the problem must be addressed, which is to tackle the issue of the undocumented or illegal workers in the country.

“In addition, the foreign worker employment system must also be further strengthened to ensure that the health screening at the source country prior to the workers leaving their country are comprehensive and meet stringent standards which could filter the medically unfit workers prior to their departure. – Feb 1, 2024

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