Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2020

The Minister of Human Resources in exercising the powers conferred under the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2020 (“IRA 2020”) has appointed 1 January 2021 as the date on which IRA 2020 comes into operation except for the amendments to sections 9 (claim for recognition), 11 (prohibition of industrial action pending recognition), 13(1) & (2) (collective bargaining), 26(2)  (reference of trade dispute to Court) and 62 (Minister’s power to make regulations); and the First Schedule (list of essential services) of the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (IRA 1967). The insertion of new sections 12A and 12B on the sole bargaining rights has also not come into force.
The key changes that do take effect on 1 January 2021 include the following:
  1. The Director General of Industrial Relations (“DGIR”) shall refer representations for dismissal without just cause or excuse under s.20 of IRA 1967 directly to the Industrial Court if he/she is satisfied that there is no likelihood of the representations being settled through conciliation. There will no longer be a need for the Minister of Human Resources to decide on whether to refer an unresolved representation.

  2. A party may, with the written approval of the DGIR, appoint any person, except an advocate and solicitor, to represent him/her during conciliation under s.20 of the IRA 1967.

  3. A party who is dissatisfied with an Industrial Court award may appeal to the High Court within 14 days from the date of the receipt of the award.  Hence, the recourse against an Industrial Court award will no longer be by way of judicial review nor by reference of a question of law under s.33A of IRA 1967 (s.33A has also been repealed).

  4. The Industrial Court may hear and determine a reference under s.20 of IRA 1967 notwithstanding that there is a dispute over the workman’s date of dismissal.  Hence the date of dismissal set out in the Minister’s reference letter will no longer be a ground to challenge the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court to determine a reference to it under s.20 of IRA 1967.

  5. Where a workman who has lodged a representation under s.20 of IRA 1967 passes away, the Industrial Court can continue to conduct its proceedings to determine if the workman was dismissed without just cause or excuse and award backwages or compensation in lieu of reinstatement or both, to the next-of-kin of the deceased workman.

  6. Unless otherwise ordered, an Industrial Court award for the payment of money shall carry interest at the rate of 8% pa calculated to commence on the 31st day from the date of the making of the award until the day the award is satisfied.

  7. The penalty for not complying with a non-compliance award under s.56 of the IRA 1967 and the general penalty for contravening a provision of the IRA, any summons, orders, or directions given under the IRA 1967 has been increased to not exceeding RM50,000.

  8. The DGIR is conferred with the power to determine the competency of a trade union (without having to refer to the Director of Trade Unions) and to decide whether to accord recognition to a trade union.

  9. The punishment of imprisonment for picketing, illegal strikes, and lockouts have been abolished.

  10. A trade union of workmen may raise in the course of any discussion with an employer or a trade union of employers (whether or not in the course of collective bargaining) questions of a general character relating to promotion, transfer, employment for a vacancy termination due to redundancy, dismissal and reinstatement and the assignment or allocation of duties.