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Employer’s guide to maternity leave in Malaysia
Published on: Monday, November 27, 2023
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Employer’s guide to maternity leave in Malaysia
Prepare your business and support expectant parents by learning about maternity and paternity leave entitlements, policies, and guidelines in Malaysia.
It’s exciting to hear about the news of someone’s pregnancy. Expectant mothers go through a huge life transition when welcoming a new member to their family, and maternity leave plays a pivotal role in supporting them as they cope with all the changes.

As an employer or HR professional, it’s crucial for you to be across maternity leave policies so you are clear about your legal obligations and can provide expectant mothers with the essential support they need. Here’s everything you need to know.

 

What is maternity leave?

 

Maternity leave is a type of paid or unpaid absence from work that is granted to pregnant employees or those who have recently given birth. It provides them with the necessary time to recover from childbirth, bond with their newborn, and address the various physical and emotional demands of motherhood. It is a crucial workplace benefit that acknowledges the unique needs of expectant and new mothers, enabling them to place their professional lives on hold temporarily, while they deal with a significant life transition.

 

The difference between maternity and paternity leave

Maternity leave and paternity leave are both types of leave granted to employees to support them during significant life events related to parenthood. However, they are designed for individuals in different roles and with different responsibilities.

Maternity leave is typically granted to biological or adoptive mothers who have given birth or are about to give birth. Paternity leave, on the other hand, is granted to fathers or partners of individuals who have given birth. Its purpose is to provide fathers or partners with the opportunity to actively participate in the care of, and bonding process with, their newborn child. Paternity leave recognises the importance of a father’s involvement in the early stages of parenting, and encourages shared responsibilities in childcare.

Maternity leave tends to be longer than paternity leave due to the physical recovery and breastfeeding considerations for mothers. Paternity leave is often shorter but still vital for promoting family bonding, gender equality, and work-life balance. The specific duration and terms of both maternity and paternity leave also varies depending on company policies — some companies might choose to offer a longer period of maternity or paternity leave than legally required.

 

Are Malaysian employers legally obliged to provide maternity leave?

Yes, there are provisions for maternity leave for female employees under the Employment Act (EA). With new amendments made to the Employment Act via the Employment (Amendment) Act 2022, there have been a few changes to maternity protections.

 

How many days of paid maternity leave do employees get?

The length of paid maternity leave has been increased from 60 consecutive days previously to 98 consecutive days now. However, it shall not commence earlier than 30 days immediately preceding her confinement, or later than the day immediately following her confinement.

In the context of maternity leave in Malaysia, the term ‘confinement’ refers to the period of time following childbirth, where a mother takes time off from work to recover and care for herself and her newborn. In Malaysia, the confinement period is culturally significant, and there are various traditional practices and customs associated with it.

Nevertheless, a female employee may, with the consent of her employer, commence work at any time during the maternity leave — if she has been certified fit to resume work by a registered medical practitioner.

 

Maternity allowance (regular monthly salary)

During the maternity leave period, employees are entitled to receive maternity allowance, which is typically calculated based on their average monthly wage. This maternity allowance is paid by the employer or the Social Security Organization (SOCSO), depending on the circumstances.

Employers are required to pay maternity allowance to an employee, if she has been employed for:

At least 90 days during the 9 months immediately before her confinement; or

She has been employed at any time in the four months immediately before her confinement.

However, maternity allowance is only provided for the first five children of eligible employees — if a female employee has more than five children, she shall not be entitled to any maternity allowance at the time of her confinement.

Based on the Employment Act, a female employee is required to notify her employer of the expected confinement period and maternity leave start date within 60 days prior. Failure to do so or commencing maternity leave without any notice to the employer will cause her to lose her entitlement to maternity allowance.

 

Termination of a pregnant employee

If a female employee is pregnant or is suffering from an illness arising from her pregnancy, the employer may not terminate her employment, or give her a notice of termination of employment, except on the grounds of:

 
  1. A wilful breach of a condition of the contract of service;
  2. Misconduct; or
  3. Closure of the employer’s business.

 

For cases in which a female employee is terminated under the aforementioned conditions, the employer bears the burden of proving that the female employee’s termination from employment was not on the grounds of her pregnancy or an illness arising from her pregnancy.

 

How many days of paid paternity leave do employees get?

Although there was no statutory requirement previously for employers in Malaysia to provide paternity leave to new fathers, thanks to the Employment (Amendment) Act 2022, married male employees are now entitled to seven days of paid paternity leave, which must be taken consecutively.

To qualify for paid paternity leave, married male employees must be:

 
  • Employed by the same employer at least twelve months immediately before the commencement of such paternity leave; and
  • Have notified his employer of his spouse’s pregnancy at least thirty days from the expected confinement or as early as possible after the birth.

 

Can an employer refuse maternity or paternity leave?

Employers are not allowed to outright refuse maternity or paternity leave to eligible employees. They are protected rights that help support the wellbeing of employees. The EA now covers all employees, regardless of wages — which means that maternity and paternity leave are statutory provisions that employers must provide to employees.

Of course, there are certain conditions and requirements that employees need to fulfill to be eligible for maternity or paternity leave. If an employer were to refuse maternity or paternity leave to an eligible employee without proper justification, that would be in gross violation of labour laws, and could potentially lead to legal issues, complaints, or disputes.

 

Manage maternity and paternity leave more effectively with Employment Hero

With so many types of employee leave available — maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave, compassionate leave and more, it can get overwhelming to keep track of all your employees’ leave entitlements and dates.

But leave management doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. All you need is a great HR software that does the work for you while you reap the benefits of structure, efficiency and productivity. Employment Hero does all that and more for you and your business!

Say goodbye to mindless admin work — you’ll never be short-staffed or lose leave requests again. With our platform, you’ll get notified whenever someone from your team requests leave. You’ll be able to see all your team’s leave requests in a calendar view, see every employee’s leave balance, approve or decline requests with notifications automatically sent to your employee, and have a central digital source of truth for all employee leave documentation.

Employees also enjoy self-service functionality by using Employment Hero — they can use their desktop or mobile to submit sick leave requests, upload their medical certificates, view their leave balances, and receive notifications about the status of their leave requests. It’s leave management made easy.

For more information on other types of leave, such as annual leavesick leave and more, visit the Malaysia SME BizHub or refer to their guide to HR compliance.

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