‘STATE EXPECTATIONS CLEARLY’
Put specifics in writing or face legal consequences, employers told
EMPLOYERS must clearly state their expectations of future employees, including their choice of attire before both parties sign on the dotted lines.
They cannot thereafter, impose new rulings at their whims and fancy as workers can take legal action against them for going against the employment contract.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot said although the Employment Act was silent on dress codes or ethics for female employees, employers must make sure any specifics must be in official writing and that their charges were well aware of them before their employment was formalised.
“Under basic employment laws, an employer has every right to decide on the criteria they want to impose on their employees.
“However, this must be clearly stated in the terms and conditions of the employment contract and should be understood by the employees before they sign up.
“For employers who bar their employees from wearing the hijab, if there was nothing on it in the employment contract to say that it is disallowed, they would be breaching the employment agreement,” he said, adding that the affected employees could then seek legal redress for breach of employment contract on the part of the employer.
Employees, he said, could also file a claim for unfair dismissal if their employers prohibited them from wearing the hijab, adding that in such an event, the employee could file a case under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967 on grounds of “termination of employment without just cause and excuse”.
They, he said, would also be legally empowered to end their employment contract on grounds of “deliberate breach of the employment contract, under Section 13 (2) of the Employment Act.
Richard was commenting on the controversy surrounding some hotels prohibiting their frontline staff from wearing the hijab, or headscarf.
He told employers, that they should be playing their role to ensure there was no room for discrimination at the workplace.
“The underlying obligation of any employer is to ensure the promotion of a sound and quality industrial relations atmosphere at their workplaces.
“This obligation is embodied in the Code of Conduct for Industrial Harmony, which is a code recognised by the Industrial Court as a morally binding piece of social instrument to guide all social partners in industry to promote cordial workplace relations and cooperation,” he said, adding that everyone should also give due respect to the rights of individuals to practise their choice of religion as guaranteed under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.
Discrimination against women who wear the headscarf is an issue close to home for Puteri Umno head Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, who said her sister-inlaw was told to her face that a vacant position was unsuitable for her because she wore the tudung.
“The issue of employers preventing their workers from wearing the headscarf should not be happening.
“I read a report on the social media about it (headscarf ban for hotel frontline positions) and as the head of Puteri Umno, I am against this policy,” she said.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said prohibiting employees working on the frontline from wearing headscarf was unacceptable.
He said the hotel industry should be mindful of local culture and also take into consideration religious sensitivities to avoid discriminating against Muslim employees.
“It is unacceptable and discriminating ... no one can accept such prohibitions, even at the international level,” he said.
Datuk Seri Richard Riot
Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin
Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom