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Working in Malaysia

The Malaysian Employment Act defines the work weeks as 48 hours, with a maximum of eight working hours per day and six working days per week. However, normal business hours in Malaysia are 9 am to 5 pm Mondays to Fridays, with many businesses and government agencies also open until noon on Saturdays. On Fridays some companies and many government departments either close early or take a break for prayers.

Certain sectors, such as education, tend to start and finish earlier. Other sectors, like oil and gas, can have very unpredictable hours as problems can crop up at any time, and some expatriates work offshore following a two-weeks-on and two-weeks-off pattern. Many expatriates find their working day is extended because of the need to be in contact with offices in different time zones.

There are special restrictions, or rather protection provisions, for women in the industrial or agricultural sector. They are not permitted to work between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am.

Malaysian workers are eligible for full-time employment at the age of 14. But there are certain protective regulations covering adolescents aged 14 to 16. The labour law in this case differs slightly in Peninsular Malaysia from that in Sabah and Sarawak. Under the age of 14 children are allowed to work as well but “only” six hours per day. The areas of work, are however highly limited to non-physical work.

The Malaysian Labour Law prescribes a minimum of 10 days of paid holidays in a year. This is not that much, however, there is barely another country which has as many religious holidays as Malaysia. Due to the different cultures and religions in Malaysia, and the freedom to live these out, there are Muslim as well as Buddhist, Hindu and Christian holidays.

Many expatriates find that the work ethic in Malaysia is rather laid back, which can be frustrating in the workplace. This is not to say that Malaysians don’t spend long hours in the office. It’s more to do with a lackadaisical attitude and a lack of urgency that can be frustrating to people who are used to a fast-paced working environment.

English is widely spoken and is the language used in most workplaces. Although people will appreciate any efforts you make to learn Bahasa Malaysia, it’s not a requirement for working here.





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