The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) says non-essential businesses should heed the government’s Movement Control Order and shut down operations for 14 days.
MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said companies that do not offer essential services should not look for loopholes to justify operations throughout the 14 days.
“A good example would be manufacturers of plastic food packets. They may say they are providing a service to the food industry. Supply of food is categoried under essential services.
“But we at MEF believe such manufacturers should not operate. The exception spelt out under the order must be given a strict interpretation,” Shamsuddin said.
He added employers and business owners should look at the bigger picture and assist the government’s goal of preventing the coronavirus from spreading.
“I have been receiving calls from business owners since Wednesday night. There was one who said the nature of his business is selling furniture but they also derive income from the supply of medication.
“We must be strict. Employers are taking a big risk if they are going to tell their employees they should come in to work if they are not providing an essential service or by asking their employeES to work behind closed doors in the office.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said all business premises will be closed except supermarkets and stores selling daily essentials.
The restriction of movement order, due to the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, was invoked in accordance to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967.
Shamsuddin said he understood the predicament faced by employers to ensure their income streams are not affected and the potential challenges of working from home. However, he stressed they should prioritise national interest.
“While termination and lay-offs are permitted under the Employment (Termination And Lay-Off Benefits) Regulations 1980, it is best for employers to take a reasonable stand and come up with a beneficial solution for all parties.
“Employers should continue paying their staff throughout this period. It would be unfair to ask employees to take unpaid leave,” he said.
To ensure the mechanism benefits both employers and employees, business owners can get their employees to take up to five days of annual leave or unpaid leave (if they don’t have leave days) and the employer will continue paying for the remaining nine days, he said.
Shamsuddin warned employers not to take the government’s order lightly and do as they wish.
“Errant employers can be penalised and even jailed if they do not adhere to the Movement Control Order.”
Section 24 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 states:
Any person guilty of an offence under this Act for which no specific penalty is provided shall be liable on conviction —
(a) in respect of the first offence, to a jail term not exceeding two years or a fine, or both;
(b) in respect of a second or subsequent offence, to a jail term not exceeding five years or a fine, or both;
(c) in respect of a continuing offence, to a further fine not exceeding RM200 for each day such offence continues.
“The laws are in place, so it is best employers go by the book or risk being jailed or fined up to five years,” Shamsuddin added.