Thursday, 23 June 2011

Sexual Harassment - Recent Amendments to Employment Act

Press Statement

Section on Sexual Harassment Amendments to the Employment Act, Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor welcomes the inclusion of Part XVA on Sexual Harassment in the proposed Amendment to the Employment Act in this sitting of Parliament. Putting it into the Employment Act establishes that sexual harassment is a workplace violation and that is a good development.

However we are concerned that the section does not include a workable definition on Sexual Harassment placing the onus on the complainant to argue and convince the employer that sexual harassment took place. If sexual harassment is not clearly defined how can a person prove harassment? The employer may have one definition in mind, the perpetrator another and the complainant another? Whose definition will apply? Clearly the definition of the people with power i.e. the employer and the Director-General will have an advantage. The point of addressing sexual harassment is to empower the complainant to bring violations to the process of arbitration. Without a clear definition,  sexual harassment will be almost impossible to establish in many instances. For example is oral harassment regarded as a violation? Secondly it is left to the Minister to prescribe the process for the inquiry while the process for the employer and the Director-General to refuse an inquiry (and the grounds for it) are specified. Why this discrepancy? After all isn’t the “Employment Act” essentially a means to protect the rights of workers and to regulate employer-employee relations.

However we are concerned that the section does not include a workable definition on Sexual Harassment placing the onus on the complainant to argue and convince the employer that sexual harassment took place. If sexual harassment is not clearly defined how can a person prove harassment? The employer may have one definition in mind, the perpetrator another and the complainant another? Whose definition will apply? Clearly the definition of the people with power i.e. the employer and the Director-General will have an advantage. The point of addressing sexual harassment is to empower the complainant to bring violations to the process of arbitration. Without a clear definition,  sexual harassment will be almost impossible to establish in many instances. For example is oral harassment regarded as a violation?

Secondly it is left to the Minister to prescribe the process for the inquiry while the process for the employer and the Director-General to refuse an inquiry (and the grounds for it) are specified. Why this discrepancy? After all isn’t the “Employment Act” essentially a means to protect the rights of workers and to regulate employer-employee relations.

We demand that the Government rectifies these inadequacies in the Bill before passing it.

Press Statement


Irene Xavier
President
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
23 June, 2011

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