MEF: Impractical for employers to set up quarantine centres

Employers generally don’t have the know-how and expertise to establish and run such operations

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by ARIF KARTONO

IT IS not practical for employers to establish their own quarantine centres for employees, the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) ED Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said.

He told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently that employers generally don’t have the know-how and expertise to establish and run such operations.

“The government should consider establishing more temporary quarantine centres to cater for the upsurge in new Covid-19 cases.

“Covid-19 is recognised as an employment disease and based on that, the Social Security Organisation (Socso) had even initially partly paid for the test and treatment of Covid-19 and it should be continued,” he said.

He said employers now have to contribute to Socso for all employees including foreign workers.

Last Friday, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan said employers should provide a quarantine centre for the purpose of isolating their foreign workers who test positive for Covid-19.

“In addition, the cost of medical expenses, as well as the retirement of foreign workers during the isolation period will be funded by their respective employers,” the minister said in a statement.

The ministry also urged all employers to report to the Ministry of Health (MoH) immediately if any of the foreign workers they employ are found to be positive for Covid-19 after screening.

“Employers need to act more proactively in curbing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic among the foreign workers they employ,” the minister said.

However, Shamsuddin said employers are doing their level best to contain the spread of the disease among workers including implementing stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) as recommended by the government.

“Still, employees need to cooperate and take care of themselves outside the work area. It is not known as to whether Covid-19 cases associated with workplace are contacted at the workplace or the employee could have contacted it outside of the workplace,” he noted.

He told TMR, applying different policy on Covid-19 based on the nationality of the worker may be a potential discrimination issue to be raised by both local and international NGOs.

It can also potentially be a very contentious issue at the international level that may lead to adverse consequences on the nation’s total revenue, he said.

“Cost is of major concern. While we appreciate all the assistance given to employers to sustain their businesses, the government should consider putting Covid-19 as part of employment disease and all related costs on Covid-19 for both local and foreign workers to be taken care by Socso,” said Shamsuddin.

He also mentioned that employers need to be practical about deadlines when they arrange for foreign workers to undergo Covid-19 tests.

The government’s capacity to do the test is currently at a maximum of 54,000 tests per day.

With about 1.7 million foreign workers, it would take at least 31 days just to complete the test for them, he explained.

“The government should educate employers and employees alike, so that the stakeholders are more aware of the disease and how to avoid contacting Covid-19.

“Enforcing the law strictly will not eliminate its spread, but proper understanding on how the disease can be avoided will go a long way in eliminating it,” he added.