a guide for employers to compassionate leave entitlements and policies in Malaysia

The Malaysian Employer’s Guide To Compassionate Leave Policies

Let’s be clear – unless you’re a psychopath, it will never be easy to manage compassionate leave due to the emotional nature of the topic.

a sad employee to help convince employers to implement a compassionate leave policy in malysia
Can you really say no to eyes like that? 

And yet, HR professionals know that a company cannot be compromised for any one individual. 

The solution, then, is a well-thought out compassionate leave policy that gives employees enough space to heal and return to work (even if not at 100%) with minimal disruption to company processes.

This post provides employers with a complete overview of compassionate leave in Malaysia, including:

  1. A definition of compassionate leave
  2. Its legal status under the Employment Act 1955
  3. A typical compassionate leave policy
  4. Whether you should incorporate it into your overall policy
  5. How to safeguard against abuse

The ultimate aim is to convince employers of the value of a formal compassionate leave policy, and steps to take in implementing and enforcing it.

Let’s begin!

🔑 Key Takeaways:

  • Compassionate leave is time off for an employee who has experienced the death of a family member.

  • There is no requirement under the Employment Act 1955 for employers to provide compassionate leave, so uncompassionate employers can leave it out!

  • Compassionate leave and bereavement leave are the same thing.

  • They are not the same as emergency leave and should be treated separately.

  • Most companies in Malaysia offer one to three days of compassionate leave.

  • Companies also use a two-tiered system where the first tier consists of immediate family members and entitles the bereaved to more leave than the second tier.

  • Employees should be required to submit a death certificate to HR upon returning to work.

  • To discourage dishonesty, ensure that HR has an accurate and updated database of employee details to verify information.

  • Check out our HR Advisory services for expert assistance with all your workplace policy needs.

What is compassionate leave?

Compassionate leave is time off for an employee who has experienced the death of a family member, which is why it’s sometimes also called ‘bereavement leave’.

It does not usually apply to non-serious accidents or non-human family members, despite how much we love cats.

cat biting human hand to show that animal deaths dont get compassionate leave entitlement in malaysia
The feeling is mutual.

Also, compassionate leave is not the same as emergency leave, as the latter is much more short-term and used to allow employees to attend to issues that can be quickly resolved.

Compassionate leave entitlement under the Employment Act

There is no mention of compassionate leave anywhere in the Employment Act 1955, and employers have no legal obligation to provide any compassionate leave.

Because compassionate leave is so ubiquitious, employers and HR staff sometimes believe it’s compulsory. But check ‘PART XII’ of the Employment Act which covers mandatory leaves and holidays and you’ll see that’s not the case.

In theory, a company can offer zero compassionate leave and win the ‘Worst Employer in Malaysia’ award.

mr burns the simpsons boss to show unsympathetic employer who learns that compassionate leave is not included in the employment act 1955
Uncompassionate bosses rejoice!

And because no company wants that kind of reputation, most will end of offering some form of compassionate leave.

Typical compassionate leave policy in Malaysia

Common practice in Malaysia is to: provide one to three days of compassionate leave.

Companies also often use a two-tiered system where the first tier consists of immediate family members and the second consists of non-immediate family members. Deaths under the first tier usually entitle the bereaved to more leave than those in the second.

Finally, employees must submit a death certificate upon returning to work as proof..

Should you draft an official compassionate leave policy?

In our professional opinion, yes!

There will be instances where you or your HR personnel will deal with:

  • different staff members
  • different family emergencies, and
  • different requests for lengths of time off

As your team grows, having a set of rules that can clearly define documentation requirements and processes will reduce the chance of unequal treatment due to biases.

a sad employee to show the importance of having official compassionate leave policy that treats everyone the same
It’s a scientific fact googly eyes add +5 sympathy points.

A well-thought out policy also allows managers to exercise discretion within limits, such as giving the maximum amount of leave for the death of a non-immediate family member that was especially involved in the bereaved’s life.

2 steps to prevent abuse by employees

You’re convinced that a compassionate leave policy is needed to give employees space to recover and get their affiars in order – awesome!

However, there is always the risk of bad actors that take advantage of this.

employees trying to exploit and lie about family deaths to show the importance of taking safety steps with compassionate and bereavement leave poicies
His grandma would spank him if she knew!

Don’t let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch.

Our last section deals with two actions that protect this policy from being exploited.

1. Regular information collection and updating

Make it standard procedure for HR to gather comprehensive information on both immediate and non-immediate family members from as early as the job application.

Establish key details such as:

  • full names
  • ages, and 
  • Relationships with the employee 

Additionally, HR is responsible for verifying that submitted death certificates are indeed of the family members of the staff.

2. A clearly written employee handbook policy

As mentioned in our list of best practices for employee handbooks, policies should be written in a way that removes ambiguity and makes it clear what employees are and are not entitled to.

To illustrate this, here’s a screenshot of the Compassionate Leave section of our own handbook template:

example of compassionate leave policy in MISHUs employee handbook template

This includes using specific terms that are easily understood by everyone from employees to managers, and even Labour Department officials if there is ever a dispute. 

Let MISHU tailor your compassionate leave policy

photo of consultant for hr advisory employee handbook

In addition to compassionate leave policies, an employee handbook should clearly outline other types of leave a company provides, and our HR experts would love to sit down with you and plan it out!

FAQs about Compassionate Leave in Malaysia

  • What is compassionate leave?
    💡Compassionate leave or bereavement leave is granted to employees to allow time off work to deal with the death or critical illness of a family member.

  • What’s the difference between emergency leave and compassionate leave?
    💡Emergency leave has a much broader scope and can be abblied to any unforeseen circumstance that requires immediate attention, such as accidents. Compassionate leave has a much narrower scope and applies to deaths or critical illness of a family member.

  • What does the Employment Act 1955 say about compassionate leave?
    💡There is no mention of compassionate leave in the Employment Act and employers are under no legal obligation to provide any compassionate leave.

  • How long can employees take off work for a death in the family?
    💡It is entirely at the discretion of the employer, but in Malaysia it typically ranges from one to three days depending on whether the death is of an immediate or non-immediate family member.

  • Who is considered an immediate family member?
    💡Again, it is entirely up to the employer, but in Malaysia immediate family members only extend to spouses, children, parents, and siblings.

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