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FMM urges immediate halt to mandatory foreign worker medical exams: demand transparent stakeholder consultation

FMM In The News: THE MALAYSIAN RESERVE, February 1, 2024 - The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) urges the authorities to suspend the implementation of the annual medical examination for foreign workers.

In a statement released today, FMM president, Tan Sri Datuk Soh Thian Lai, said this suspension should remain in effect until the Ministry of Health and Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency Sdn Bhd (Fomema) conduct a comprehensive stakeholder consultation, providing a clear explanation for the policy change.

Additionally, Soh said the authorities should present a regulatory impact assessment and afford the industry an opportunity to express their views and recommendations.

The Immigration Department’s recent internal memo indicates the enforcement of this policy change for work permit renewals starting February 1, 2024.

Soh stated that the industry expresses frustration at the lack of effective communication by the authorities, despite repeated calls from various associations for the policy change to be temporarily suspended, pending a thorough stakeholder consultation.

Soh said the imposition of a yearly health screening for workers is viewed as “excessive” by the industry.

It is argued that the previous screening frequency, with mandatory checks during the first three years and subsequent screenings on alternate years (ie, on the 5th, 7th, and 9th year of employment), is sufficient to monitor worker health conditions and detect any communicable diseases.

Unlike in neighbouring Singapore, where permit renewals involve a scaled-down number of essential tests, Soh pointed out that Malaysian workers undergo a full suite of medical tests. “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 million over a span of 10 years could instead be redirected towards other health and wellness programmes and initiatives for the workers,” Soh said.

According to Soh, the industry believes that concerns about the rise in communicable diseases brought in by foreign workers are likely linked to the high number of undocumented or illegal foreign workers in the country.

These workers, he said, do not undergo any health screening or may have absconded from their employers after failing the initial medical examination.

“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, the crux of the problem must be addressed which is to tackle the issue of the undocumented/illegal workers in the country which is a sizeable number,” said Soh.

Furthermore, he said that the foreign worker employment system must be strengthened to ensure comprehensive health screening at the source country before workers depart, meeting stringent standards that filter out medically unfit workers before their departure.

“FMM once again reiterates its call for the authorities to suspend the increase and immediately convene a stakeholder engagement,” Soh concluded.

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