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Children and Young Persons (Employment) (Amendment) Act 2010

Children and Young Persons (Employment) (Amendment) Act 2010
Are our Young Workers Well Protected?

Introduction

In Malaysia, children and young persons are engaged in employment, but remain invisible as they may be hidden from view in plantations, labouring in parents??businesses or toiling behind the walls of workshops. To overcome the exploitation of child labour, the Government has, through the recent amendments in the law, taken a pro-active step to protect children and young persons in the workforce.

The Malaysian parliament recently passed the Bill for the Children and Young Persons (Employment) (Amendment) Act 2010 (??strong>Amendment Act?? with a view to amending the provisions of the previous Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act 1966 (??strong>Principal Act??.

Key Aspects of the Principal Act

The Principal Act regulates the employment of children and young persons, and gives them rights and protection from mistreatment in the course of their employment. Previously, a ??hild??was defined as a person who is below the age of 14, while a ??oung person??was a person who has not attained the age of 16. The Principal Act also provides for the type of work that they can perform, with the intention of protecting under-age workers from employment which may be ??nfavourable, dangerous and exploitative??

The Amendments

The amendment of the Principal Act gives greater protection to the rights and privileges of our working children and young persons. The Amendment Act, which came into effect on 1 March 2011, is aimed at increasing the age of children and young persons that can be employed, in tandem with the Minimum Age Convention 1973 which Malaysia ratified in 1977. Specifically, the word ??hild??has been revised to refer to a person who has not completed his fifteenth year of age, while a ??oung person??is construed as a person who, not being a child, has not completed his eighteenth year of age. In essence, the revision of the definition of ??hildren??and ??oung persons??protects those under the age of 15 and 18, respectively.

Based on the Principal Act, children and young persons are allowed to do ??ight work??in family enterprises and licensed public establishments besides engaging in approved internships, apprenticeships and Government-sponsored work. However, the Principal Act does not define the term ??ight work?? The Amendment Act introduces the definition of ??ight work??which refers to??ny work performed by a worker??which entails ??hile sitting, moderate movement of the arm, leg and trunk??or ??hile standing, moderate movement of the arm??

The Amendment Act also introduces the term ??azardous work??which refers to ??ny work that has been classified as hazardous work based on the risk assessment conducted by a competent authority on safety and health determined by the Minister of Human Resource?? In this regard, greater efforts have been made to ensure that children and young persons who enter the job markets are safe from harmful or dangerous working environments which might be detrimental to their rights and interests.

The flip side of the coin is that, children between the age of 16 and 18 now fall under the Act, and employers who typically rely on, e.g. part time staff during school holidays or school leavers, are now restricted in the types of activities they may engage in. It remains to be seen whether the Amendment Act will have any tangible impact on the workforce and employers in general.

Offences under the Amendment Act

To give wider protection to children and young persons, a new provision has also been included in the Amendment Act to provide for offences committed by a body corporate, partnership, society or trade union, whereby persons representing an offending body may be charged jointly or severally in the same proceeding.

The Amendment Act also imposes heavier punishment for offenders and provides for a term of imprisonment of one year or a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or both. In the case of a second or subsequent offence, the amended Section 14 provides a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine of not more than RM10,000 or both. The increase in penalties would go some way in ensuring fuller compliance of the Act and serve as an effective tool to help protect working children and young persons.

Conclusion

The exploitation of children and young persons in the work place is a global phenomenon. Malaysia, through the Amendment Act, is making a serious attempt to curb this problem. In order for us to achieve the objectives of the Amendment Act, it requires concerted efforts from all sections of the society to eradicate the problem. More importantly, we must remember that rigorous enforcement of the Act is necessary and must be made a priority so as to ensure that our young workers are not exposed to any form of exploitation or danger that may interfere with their education, health, moral or social development.


This article was written by David Dass and Makram Ariffin of Christopher Lee & Co (www.christopherleeco.com).

Article length : 780 words
Date : 27 April 2011
Contact : Kuok Yew Chen
yewchen@christopherleeco.com
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