NCCIM: Emergency Ordinance of Act 446 untimely

By HARIZAH KAMEL / Pic by BERNAMA

THE National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) has expressed grave concern over the untimely use of the Emergency Ordinance Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act (Act 446).

The Emergency Ordinance of the Act is to ensure employers provide proper accommodation and amenities for workers.

NCCIM president Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap said with businesses still struggling to heal from more than a year-long pandemic crisis, the harsh enforcement of Act 446 is deemed inapt at this critical moment as it adds unnecessary burden and cost on businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“The wider empowerment of enforcement to other ministries would cause uneasiness among businesses to worry about the objectivity and consistency of enforcing the Act.

“More worrisome is, businesses were perturbed by the use of the Emergency Ordinance for the enforcement of Act 446 as it has stirred businesses and investors’ fear and concern that the Emergency Ordinance may use for other regulations and laws that could undermine the already weak investor’s confidence and anxiety about the duration of the emergency,” he said in a statement yesterday.

The new law imposes stiffer penalties against employers or owners of accommodation for failing to provide proper housing facilities for workers.

Ter said employers that were unable to comply with Act 446 have to house their employees in temporary accommodation approved by the Department of Labour (JTK) and in hotels registered with Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.

These arrangements will cost RM270 per month per worker with RM200 for accommodation, RM20 for utilities and RM50 for transportation.

“NCCIM hopes that the Emergency Ordinance is carefully managed and implemented in a fair and transparent manner to avoid undermining investors’ confidence and private investment prospects.

“The government’s regular engagement with the industry is essential before the implementation of public policy and decree of the new ordinance to minimise disruption to businesses,” he said.

NCCIM has agreed that Act 446 is a step in the right direction as it ensures businesses and employers maintain proper and decent housing standards and amenities for their workers.

However, Ter suggested that the government adopt an educational approach on employers in various sectors and allow a longer grace period to comply with Act 446 during this unprecedented time.

He called for an extension of a 12-month “grace period” till the end of December 2021 for employers to apply for the Certificate of Accommodation from JTK.

“The extension can serve to provide more time for JTK to engage with businesses and industries, especially SMEs through collaboration with the chambers and industry associations to educate and enhance businesses and employers’ awareness about the importance of ensuring a liveable condition for foreign workers,” he added.