Negligence leading to Covid-19 spread punishable

Unfair for treatments and disinfections at the infected locations to be borne solely by the govt, say observers


COMPANIES found responsible for negligence that could have led to the spike in Covid-19 infections can be punished by the law, a legal expert said.

Lawyer Datuk Mohd Haaziq Pillay Abdullah said such an action can be taken using provisions under Act 342 (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988).

From the provisions, he said the government can claim back every expenses incurred from the companies that are deemed involved in any negligent practices which cause medical emergencies.

“In fact, Section 19 of the Act states that a medical officer of health may order the destruction of any structure where a case of infectious disease has occurred if the structure is incapable of being thoroughly disinfected.

“It will be very unfair if the government did not charge the company who made billions, otherwise tax payers’ money will be used for Covid-19 treatment cost,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview recently.

Local Covid-19 cases have been experiencing a spike for the past few weeks, mainly registered at major workplaces including the Damanlela cluster, as well as Top Glove Corp Bhd’s Teratai cluster.

Legal observers said it is unfair for treatments and disinfections at the infected locations to be borne solely by the government.

The Ministry of Health has identified 11,215 Top Glove workers to undergo Covid-19 screening.

Mohd Haaziq Pillay said while big companies contribute a lot to the economy and government through business tax, they should not escape the responsibilities to help mitigate the pandemic effect.

“The company needs to be responsible for providing a clean environment, and cannot have maximum shifts running,” he said.

He added that big clusters are formed when companies do not adhere to the fixed modus operandi, which eventually affects other people at large.

“Tax is a national obligation. But justice does matter, too. If there is no action taken towards the companies, others will be encouraged to act recklessly in the future,” Mohd Haaziq Pillay said.

He said such reckless actions may also cause the Conditional Movement Control Order to be extended, particularly in Selangor, and would in turn drag the economy down further.

Meanwhile, Leonard Yeoh, partner at law firm Tay & Partners, said an employer has no right to restrict movement of his employees just to prevent the risk of infection.

“It is also unreasonable for employers to punish an employee for contracting Covid-19 due to the employee’s refusal to stay home.

“However, if an employee contracts the virus due to his infringement of any movement restriction imposed by the government, the employee may then be subject to appropriate disciplinary action for a conduct that is detrimental to the workplace,” he wrote in an article entitled “Human Resources & Legal Dilemma: Employees tested Positive for Covid-19”.

He said an employer may decide to terminate the employment of an employee who is diagnosed with Covid-19, only if the contraction of virus leads to permanent disability which hampers the employee’s ability to work.

“While an employee may not be terminated for inability to perform his or her task during Covid-19 treatment, he may be requested (subject to his or her agreement) to utilise his paid annual leave for prolonged Covid-19 treatments and follow-up appointments when medical leaves are exhausted.

“Once paid leaves are utilised completely, he may even be put on unpaid leave for any subsequent medical treatments,” he added.

Tay & Partners associate Pua Jun Wen said businesses should also focus on ongoing prevention and action plans in response to the changing environment.

She said all sensible measures to control risk of Covid-19 in the workplace must be adopted.

“Employees, too, play a significant role in protecting their colleagues and preventing the contamination and spread of viruses in the workplace.

“Employees should be wary and stay away from crowded places to minimise the risk of exposure to Covid-19 virus,” she added.

Read our earlier report


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