Recently, a screenshot of a WhatsApp message which went viral on social media had initiated fury among social media users. The incriminating WhatsApp message had caused JD Sports Malaysia to be under fire after an outlet supervisor barred its Muslim employees to go on their prayer breaks. Muslim employees were forbidden from their prayer breaks or they would need to hand in their resignation letters.
Outraged netizens claimed it as a disgraceful act and urged the Company to take immediate action against the supervisor. On the other end, many also contended that such situation resulted from employees who took advantage of the long prayer breaks. In response to this issue, JD Sports Malaysia made an official statement on social media and made it clear that it was not part of the company’s policy and it was solely an action of one individual.
There are companies that opt out to have prayer breaks as this practice is deemed to be an issue since there are some who tend to abuse the 10-15 minute break. Legally speaking, companies in Malaysia don’t have the express obligation to provide prayer breaks. However, companies choose to provide this break as it falls within the need to respect the multi-racial and religious environment. When the situation gets out of hand, employees who tend to prolong this 15 minute break to smoke or loiter around is giving the Company no other choice but to withdraw this benefit which was given out of respect in the first place.
This was not the first time the news was flooded with viral policies considered as discrimination at workplace on the grounds of religion. Previously, the issue of the ‘no-hijab’ policy made it to the headlines where it sparked numerous mixed feedbacks on the controversial policy.
In response, the government was urged to amend the existing legislation (Employment Act 1955) to have a clearer guideline on discrimination at workplace, on the grounds of race and religion. Private sectors in Malaysia have to be more aware and cautious in implementing rules and practices that may amount to discrimination at workplace. At the same time, individuals i.e. employees have to desist from taking advantage of any extra benefits that a Company provides.