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GE14: Read This If Your Boss Isn't Letting You Off Work To Vote On May 9

  • The official GE14 voting day will be on the 9th of May, which is a weekday. 
  • Companies aren’t obligated to treat the day as a holiday, but they are required to give their employees a reasonable period off for voting. 
  • Some companies may ask employees to use up their annual leave if they have to vote in a different state. 
  • We can’t find a precedent for it in our research, but a lawyer contact opines that it shouldn’t be an offense to require annual leave.

It’s been announced that voting day for GE14 will be on May 9th. Unlike the previous two elections, this one will be held on a weekday.

And for many of us, especially first-time voters, we wonder if we’ll have to apply for a day off to actually exercise our rights as Malaysians.

In many circumstances, companies will simply give employees the election day off, but this isn’t necessarily the case everywhere.

But what does the law say?

No law actually states that polling day will be a public holiday, so companies aren’t obligated to exempt you from work on that day. What they do need to give you is a reasonable period for voting.

  • This means that they can’t make any deductions in pay (or other remunerations) or impose a penalty for any absences during your voting period.
  • Employers who directly, or indirectly refuse to grant your right to vote, or doesn’t give you a reasonable period for voting will be liable to a fine of RM5,000 or prison for one (1) year.

Some companies will grant a half day off for employees to go out and vote, while others might actually prepare buses or vehicles to bring employees to vote in designated time slots.

“But my voting station is all the way in a different state!”

In this situation, the ambiguously worded “reasonable period for voting” can be a little confusing. After all, employees who need to fly or drive out to a different state might consider taking a full day off as a reasonable amount of time for them to vote.

Usually, in these cases, many companies approach things in their own way. Some simply give their employees as long as they deem necessary.

Meanwhile, other employers might think that giving employees more than half a day off is unreasonable, and if your voting station is in another state, then you are encouraged to apply for annual leave.

In Malaysia, the norm is that employers will suggest that you use up annual leave in such situations.

This infographic produced by the Meca Employers Consulting Agency does suggest that employers inform their staff of this beforehand to avoid any confusion.

But can an employee take legal action against an employer who insists that they take their voting day out of their annual leave?

We were curious too, so we reached out to Jo Fan of Malaysian law startup CanLaw to get more insight into the legalese.

“I think you are right that the spirit of the law here is that people need to be given a right to vote. If it takes them 1 hour to vote, then they have to be given 1 hour to vote; if they need to take 2 days in order for their vote to be cast, then it would be reasonable to give them 2 days.”

But whether they should be given the day off or have to take a day from their annual leave, he thinks that, “It depends on how the court would interpret it.”

“I personally haven’t researched much into the section to see if the courts have made a ruling on annual leaves,” he said.

“But in my opinion and interpretation, there is no need for annual leave since it is a right. And that is the general consensus among the lawyer friends I’ve discussed this with.”

However, another lawyer in his contacts has a different opinion.

“It shouldn’t be an offense to require annual leave because annual leave in non-EA contracts is no mandated by law. However, rejecting their annual leave on that day may be.”

In our own attempt to find if there is a precedent, we were unable to find a similar case going to court in the past, and so we can’t confirm what will hold up in the court of law.

  • For more information on checking your voting station and a quick overview on what the voting process is like, you can read our previous article here

Feature Image Credit: Expatgo

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