Private sector employers should shed traditional thinking pertaining to the implementation of 90-day maternity leave, as suggested by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his 2018 Budget announcement.

Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general J. Solomon said the proposal is laudable, as the practice would add no extra cost to employers, and would actually increase productivity.

“By (increasing) leave from 60 days to 90 days, as implemented in the civil service sector, (some private sector employers have discovered an) increase in productivity as well as reduced pressure at the workplace.

“I am (therefore) confused by the statistics presented by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) on the additional costs that would be incurred if the (extended) leave proposal is approved by the private sector.

“The MEF should provide details on the types of jobs, sectors and industries that are likely to experience increased costs following the implementation of extra leave.

“Such old-fashioned thinking needs to be changed, as the C Policy and Policy Studies Centre (CEPR) has proven that additional provisions for maternity leave have a positive impact on the work environment,” he said.

MEF executive director Datuk Shamsudin Bardan had reportedly said that companies would have to bear additional costs of RM20 billion if the 90-day maternity leave policy is made mandatory.

He said the cost breaks down to RM10 billion for post-paid maternity leave and RM10 billion for paying temporary workers.

He also argued that on average, about 250,000 female workers take maternity leave annually.

Meanwhile, Solomon said that employers should also consider providing extra benefits to employees, post-maternity leave.

“After these women return to work, the CEPR study found that 89 per cent of respondents showed positive impact or no effect on productivity, while the contribution rate rose to 93 per cent and morale to 99 per cent.