April 23, 2021

Protection for the disabled

3 min read

HARAPAN OKU commends Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for her commitment to the 1% employment quota for persons with disabilities and for protecting it from any cut in the process of right-sizing the civil service (The Star, April 19; online at bit.ly/star_disabled).

Under her leadership, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has doubled the 1% OKU (disabled persons) employment target to 2%. It is also pushing all other ministries to meet the 1% quota, to gain the authority to tell the private sector to do the same.

As at June 30, the overall OKU employment rate in the civil service stood at 0.22%.

When questions arose in Parliament regarding the Employment Act 1955, Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Mahfuz Omar initially said the Act will not protect job seekers from discrimination in the Employment Act 1955 (The Star, Oct 16; bit.ly/star_jobseekers). When asked about what actions could be taken against employers who discriminated against women and persons with disabilities, he replied that his ministry is open to receiving complaints about discrimination, even if those are not covered under the law and would “negotiate with” and “advise” employers so that they would not do unreasonable things again.

This response is disappointing, as mere “advice” can neither deter nor stop discrimination. There must be a viable means of holding accountable through legal action those employers who discriminate against certain job seekers, including those with disabilities.

Furthermore, without a law prohibiting discrimination against job seekers, there is no legal deterrent to discrimination in the hiring process. And there can then be no legal basis to support victims in seeking redress for injustice experienced in discriminatory recruitment practice.

On July 19, 2010, Malaysia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Accordingly, the government must protect job seekers with disabilities from discrimination.

In that regard, in consonance with CRPD Article 27 on “work and employment”, the government has to explicitly “recognise the right of persons with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities”.

Moreover, it is incumbent on the government to “Prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment, including conditions of recruitment, hiring and employment, continuance of employment, career advancement, and safe and healthy working conditions”.

Thus, we call on the government to introduce legislation to meet Malaysia’s national obligations.

Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran announced on Oct 29 that his ministry will form a technical committee Nov 4 to discuss proposed amendments to the Employment Act (the committee’s meeting was rescheduled to Nov 11). In its review of the Employment Act, we urge the ministry to introduce legal provisions to protect job seekers with disabilities from discrimination. This is a key step towards harmonising national employment-related legislation with the CRPD, and filling, in both the public and private sectors, the 1% OKU employment quota.This is vital to ensure that Malaysians with disabilities have equal access to employment opportunities and are not left behind as we all strive for shared prosperity by 2030.

THIS LETTER IS ENDORSED

BY 25 CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS