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FMM wants 1 more year to comply with new housing standards for workers

FMM In The News: FREE MALAYSIA TODAY, PETALING JAYA, Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) is asking for an additional 12 months from the human resources ministry for companies to comply with amendments to the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446).

The amendments, which came into force on June 1, mandate a minimum space requirement for workers’ accommodation, basic facilities as well as safety and hygiene standards.

Employers were given a grace period until Aug 31 to comply, and enforcement starts today.

However, FMM said the RM50,000 fine for each offence during the current weak economic conditions was “too drastic” and would severely hamper the revival initiatives of most industries.

FMM president, Soh Thian Lai, said while the Act was announced on May 27, the accompanying regulations which provide greater detail on it were only gazetted and released on the website of the Attorney-General’s Chambers last Friday.

“Given our current fragile business conditions and to facilitate industries towards compliance, FMM is appealing to the minister to allow a further 12-month grace period for companies to undertake these extensive adjustments without imposing an immediate penalty,” said Soh.

“FMM suggests that the next 12 months be used to continually educate the industry and to issue a notice of non-compliance for improvements by industry in conformity to the provisions of the law.

“There should also be a requirement for a firm commitment by the industry on the action plan towards compliance within a specified time frame appropriate to the relevant areas of non-compliance,” he said in a statement.

While FMM supports the amendments to the Act, Soh said, compliance would take time and money, with many businesses still struggling to maintain their operations and employment after being severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among their concerns, he said, were the issues of sleeping or personal space for each worker and the sourcing for additional housing space.

He also said many industries had to resort to renting shop houses for accommodation following objections from residents of housing estates.

Other issues include renovating buildings, converting non-residential buildings and obtaining building approvals or accommodation certificates from the Labour Department and local councils.

With the expanded scope of the law now covering employers in all sectors and workplaces under the city or municipal councils, Soh said, there were also concerns about whether the authorities were prepared to facilitate and expedite approvals by employers to comply with the Act.

“There could be delays in approvals due to technical procedures (and) the delays by the local council would have a wide ranging impact on manufacturers,” he said.

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