04 Sep 2018 11:24:19 AM

Work-life practices key to retaining women in workforce

Malaysian employers need to adjust current workplace practices based on their workforce needs in order to encourage more women to participate and remain in the workforce, as well as meet the demands of the future of work.
Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development YB Hannah Yeoh said this to over 100 companies at the recent launch of the LIFE AT WORK 2018 Awards, an annual initiative by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and Talent Corporation Malaysia Berhad (TalentCorp) that recognises companies with progressive workplace practices.
YB Hannah Yeoh at TalentCorp's launch of LIFE AT WORK 2018 Awards

Speaking to senior leadership and human resource practitioners at the event, YB Yeoh said that women presented a valuable source of talent in the country as more Malaysian women are obtaining higher education and are prepared to join the workforce. “We actually have more women graduating from our universities,” she said. “In 2017, 62% of our public university graduates were women.”

Despite the large number of female graduates in the country, the female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) is still wanting with the latest figures coming up to only 54.7% of the country’s total labour force. Out of this percentage of women talent, less than 15% hold management positions.

At the closed-door dialogue with employers, YB Yeoh spoke about the importance of women in the workforce.

Among the main reasons cited for the low FLFPR is work-life conflict, and lack of family and employer support. New jobs or roles in the workplace tend to bring about a sense of guilt amongst women especially as they may find it difficult to balance new responsibilities at work with those at home. Many women end up leaving their jobs or are reluctant to even join the workforce in the first place because they feel that they do not receive adequate support from their employers.

"Many women talent leave the workforce to raise a family or because their organisations lack work-life practices (WLPs),” said YB Yeoh during the #ChatwithHannahYeoh session at the launch event.
And when there are not enough women coming back to work, then it is challenging to have more women in positions of leadership.
"This is why we must address the brain drain that happens when women opt to leave the workplace. There is a big missed opportunity in leveraging on all areas of our talent pool when the women workforce is not fully utilised. And that’s our loss,” she said.

YB Yeoh said that employees, especially women employees, are most productive at work when they know that their families are properly cared for. Therefore, it is vital that employers provide their staff with the flexibility to attend to their personal and family duties when needed. The way to make this happen is by implementing people-focused WLPs in the workplace.

At the dialogue, YB Yeoh received feedback from employers on how to implement quality childcare, extended paternity and maternity leave, the importance of creating an inclusive culture, and the outlook for work-life practices in Malaysia.

YB Yeoh stated that the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development is focusing its efforts on creating an enabling environment for families to thrive in the workplace. At present, the Ministry provides the following WLPs for its staff:

• Maternity leave – 3 months
• Paternity leave – 7 days
• Quarantine leave – 5 days (for parents of children below 18 years old who have contagious diseases)
• Flexi hours – 38 hours 30 minutes per week (working hours are from 10AM - 3PM)
• Work from home – pilot project launched but may only be suitable for selected ministries.

The Ministry also aims to have more childcare facilities by 1 January 2019 as there are currently only 205 childcare facilities for government agencies across the country.

“To me it’s very simple. If we cannot do it at the government level, we cannot expect the private sector to do it. It would be unfair. The only thing we can do is to encourage you to do the same,” YB Yeoh told the various company representatives at the event. “Once we have tested it out in our own agencies, the next step would be by way of legislation. After you give a voluntary period to engage, follow and prescribe, and if that is still not done, then we have to go by way of legislation,” she reasoned.

YB Yeoh with TalentCorp Deputy CEO Sivakumeren Narayanan, Deputy Secretary-General, Ministry of Human Resources Dato' Amir Omar, and sketchpost artist Vanessa.

With the proven potential of women talent in the workforce, both the public and private sectors need to ensure that their female employees receive adequate support and incentives to join and remain in the workforce. “The best performing organisations are those that carry out human resource policies that respect the employees’ rights and responsibilities to themselves and their families,” said YB Yeoh. “These employers are generous with trust. They listen to their employees and make the effort to create safe, comfortable and nurturing work environments.”

She concluded, "Many of these employers are leading the WLP movement by offering benefits that is manageable by the company.
Watch the highlights of the LIFE AT WORK 2018 Awards launch by YB Hannah Yeoh below.
If you trust your employees, they will return that trust to you.


TalentCorp's LIFE AT WORK recognises and celebrates employers who raise the bar in driving and implementing progressive workplace practices. To participate, go to www.lifeatwork.my.