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FMM calls for suspension of annual foreign worker medical examination

FMM In The News: THE EDGE MALAYSIA, KUALA LUMPUR, February 1, 2024 - The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) called on authorities on Thursday to suspend the implementation of annual foreign worker medical examination until proper consultation is conducted.

In a statement, FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said the implementation of the annual medical check ups must be suspended until the Ministry of Health and the Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency (Fomema) explains the rationale and justification for the change in policy.  

The federation is also seeking for the ministry and Fomema to present the regulatory impact assessment, and allow the industry the opportunity to provide their views and recommendations, the statement read.  

“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 i.e. on the 5th, 7th and 9th year 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.

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

According to FMM, based on a publicly circulated internal memo by the Immigration Department, the department would start enforcing the policy change for the renewal of work permits with effect from Feb 1, 2024.

Soh said the industry is very frustrated by 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 proper stakeholder consultation.

“Instead of mandating annual tests, the authorities should only impose the condition for a full test if the workers return to their home countries in between for a holiday, where the health screening must be done at the point of their return,” he added.

Soh also suggested that the additional screening, which is estimated to cost the sector an additional RM500 million over a span of 10 years, could instead be redirected toward other health and wellness programmes and initiatives for the workers.

He added that 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.

It is also likely that concerns pertaining to the rise in communicable diseases were due to 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 in the country, he said.

“It is unfair to impose such a burden on employers, when the problem may not arise from the legal workers in the system. In this regard, the crux of the problem must be addressed, which is to tackle the issue of the undocumented/illegal workers in the country,” he added.

FMM also called for the foreign worker employment system to be further strengthened to ensure that 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.

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