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Manufacturers’ federation: Suspend implementation of annual foreign worker medical exam

FMM In The News: BORNEO POST, KUCHING, February 2, 2024 - The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has called on the authorities to suspend the implementation of the annual foreign worker medical examination.

FMM president Tan Sri Dato Soh Thian Lai said such implementation should be considered only after the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency Sdn Bhd (Fomema) convene a proper stakeholder consultation.

He added that the consultation should explain the rationale and justification for the change in policy, present the regulatory impact assessment and more importantly, allowing the industry the opportunity to provide their views and recommendations.

“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.

“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,” he said in a statement yesterday.

According to Soh, mandating a yearly health screening for the workers is seen as an excessive requirement.

He said 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 – for instance, on the fifth, seventh and ninth 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, he said 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 are based on a scaled down number of essential 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,” he lamented.

The industry, he added, 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, namely tackling the issue of undocumented or illegal workers in the country which is a sizeable number.

He added that 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.

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

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