In Parliament yesterday (15 Jan), Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad revealed that a total of 521 companies with unfair employment practices were warned or sanctioned by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) from 2013 to 2017.

However, majority of them (58%) only received warnings. The rest would “faced more difficulty” when applying for foreign work passes, he said.

“So you can see that there is action being taken, and certainly we have to be fair to both employees and employers to make sure that the cases are dealt with fairly,” Mr Zaqy added.

He was replying to Nominated MP Walter Theseira, who asked whether the ministry could publicly name errant employers to assure people that action is being taken.

But Minister of State refused to put up a list to name all the errant employers.

“While naming all errant employers publicly would serve as a deterrence, there could be unintended consequences because we may end up indirectly identifying the affected employees or breaching their privacy,” he replied.

It’s not known how naming an errant company would affect the privacy of the affected employees since the employees’ name would not be disclosed. In any case, once an action is taken against the errant company, the company would know an existing staff or ex-staff has probably contacted MOM.

Mr Zaqy said that TAFEP does publish the numbers and main types of complaints it receives in its annual reports.

More than 1 complaints received a day

Mr Zaqy also revealed that MOM and TAFEP received an average of 450 complaints a year about unfair employment practices from 2015 to 2017.

This works out to 1.23 complaints MOM received each day, on average.

Most were about favouritism towards foreigners or discrimination based on age, he said. When TAFEP investigates complaints, employers are generally cooperative, he assured.

Most of the complaints arise because employers do not have a proper system to address internal grievances or are insensitive to the different needs and conditions of employees, Mr Zaqy also said. The aim is to help these employers improve their internal practices or resolve the complaints amicably.

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