Published: 25 December 2013
Last Updated: 17.12.2017
The Labour Court is a quasi-judicial system that serves as an alternative to civil claims. Its objective is to make available a labour justice system that is fair, simple, swift and economical to resolve workers' demands regarding wages and other financial benefits that can be claimed by them. In accordance with its establishment rationale as a mechanism to support workers’ welfare, the Labour Court has the following special features:
- Hears all demands of workers without any limits on the sum claimed
- Holds simple and informal proceedings, but in accordance with the principles of justice observed by civil courts. The practice of hearing labour cases according to the principles of justice of civil court rules has been recognised through decisions made by the High Court.
Labour cases must be concluded within one to three months, depending on the complexity of the issues and legislation involved. This will preserve the welfare of the parties in dispute and industrial harmony. To achieve this, postponement of labour cases set for trial by any party is discouraged. In addition, simple claims or labour cases are solved through detailed explanation by an officer via telephone calls to the parties involved.
Labour case handling procedures are more simple and uncomplicated compared with the trial procedure in a civil court. There are not many forms to be filled in which makes it easy for the employee, including one not highly educated and the illiterate, to file a case. If the complainant is not able to give details of the full name and address of the defendant, the officer helps complete the information and calculates the amount of claim by reviewing records in the Labour Market Database (LMD) application. Explanation must be given to the complainant on how the calculation is made to ensure the complainant understands it.
The complainant does not have to pay any fees when filing a labour case. In addition, delays in labour cases are avoided to reduce transport expenses of the parties in dispute to the Labour Court and reduce the unpaid leave taken by workers. The trial officer must resolve a labour case immediately so that the parties in dispute need not engage a lawyer, thus indirectly saving costs.
Generally, labour cases may be filed by workers as defined under section 2 of the Employment Act 1955.
Any person or class of persons:
- included in any category in the First Schedule of the Employment Act 1955 to the extent specified therein; or
- in respect of whom the minister makes an order under sub-section 2(3) or section 2A of the Employment Act 1955.
A. Section 69 of the Employment Act 1955. Powers of Director-General to Investigate Complaints
Officials authorised by the Director-General are given special powers under the Employment Act 1955 to:
1) inquire into and decide any dispute between an employee and his employer in respect of wages and other payments under:
i) any term of the contract of service;
ii) any of the provisions of the act or any subsidiary legislation made thereunder; or
iii) the provisions of the Wages Council Act 1947 or any order made thereunder
2)hear and decide any claim by:
i) an employee under section 33 of the Employment Act 1955;
ii) a subcontractor for labour against a contractor or subcontractor;
iii) an employer against his employee in respect of indemnity under section 13(1) of the Employment Act 1955.
3) inquire into and confirm or set aside any decision made under section 14(1) of the Employment Act 1955.
4) charge interest at the rate of 8% or less per annum calculated commencing on the 31st day from the date of order of the Labour Court until the day the order is satisfied. Inquire into and confirm or set aside any decision made under section 14(1) of the Employment Act 1955.
5) take prosecution action against an employer for failure to comply with any decision or order of the Director-General which upon conviction, is liable to a fine not exceeding RM10,000/- and, in the case of a continuing offence, a daily fine not exceeding RM100/- for each day the offence continues after conviction.
Under section 69 of the Employment Act 1955, an employee earning not more than RM2,000 a month and/or a labourer without pay limit may make a claim at the Labour Court. Claims under section 69 of the Employment Act 1955 involve balance of salaries, wages in lieu of notice, payment of overtime, termination benefits and other benefits specified under the law in force.
B. Section 69B of the Employment Act 1955 – Additional Powers of the Director-General
Under section 69B, the powers of the Director-General under section 69(1)(a) shall extend to employees whose wages per month exceed RM2,000 but does not exceed RM5,000 a month. For the purposes of this section, "wages" are as defined in section 2 of the Employment Act 1955.
Save for Section XV (Complaints and Inquiry) and Part XVI (Procedure), the other provisions of this act shall not apply to employees under section 69B.
C. Section 69C of the Employment Act 1955 - Claims for indemnity for termination without notice
The Director-General may inquire into and decide on any claim concerning any indemnity to the employer for termination by the employee without notice.
However, the powers of the Director-General are limited to inquire, hear or make any order for any claim, dispute or those considered as disputes under the Industrial Relations Act 1967:
i) under inquiry or proceeding under the act;
ii) decided by the minister under section 20(3) of the act; and
iii) referred to or are under the proceedings in the Industrial Court.
D. Appeal against the decision of the Labour Court
The party dissatisfied with the decision of the Labour Court may appeal to the High Court within 14 days of receiving the decision.
In brief, with the powers conferred under section 69 of the Employment Act 1955 to hear and decide a dispute, the department is applying steps 1 to 17 in labour case trial procedures. The process concludes when the department takes action to enforce the order of the Labour Court.
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