Guide to employee leave

6 Compulsory & 9 Optional Leave Policies In Malaysia [2024 Update]

Workplaces Need Clear Leave Policies

Employers in Malaysia are mandated by law to allocate a set number of days for certain types of leave. Of course, they are free to offer more, especially when 50% of employees are reportedly ready to resign to pursue better work-life balance.

Of course, employers don’t want to be taken advantage of – the answer is always a middle ground.

employee in pieces
This guy could probably use the day off.

In this post, we’ll provide an overview of the mandatory and optional types of leave in Malaysia.

The goal: for employers and employees to know what leave is and isn’t negotiable.

With this, not only can they ensure workplace policies are legally compliant, but we hope the list of optional leaves inspires them with ways to improve working conditions at the company.

Note: The information below has been verified to be accurate as of March 2024.

The Employment Act 1955

We’d like to start by citing our source: The Employment Act 1955 PDF.

When it comes to leave policies (and most workplace policies for that matter), think of the Employment Act 1955 as your ultimate authority. The act lays out the statutory rights of employees and terms of employment, including holidays, termination, salaries, and of course, leave policies.

2023 Employment Act amendments

The beginning of 2022 brought with it a set of amendments to the Employment Act to better safeguard employee welfare.

We’ve compiled amendments likely to affect company leave policy into the table below.

AspectPrevious StipulationCurrent Stipulation
Coverage of EmployeesCovered employees with salaries of RM2,000 and belowCovers ALL employees (with certain exceptions for those earning >RM4,000)
Flexible Work ArrangementsNo provision for flexible work arrangementsEmployees can apply in writing for flexible work arrangements. Employers must respond within 60 days, and reasons must be given for rejection
Weekly Working HoursMaximum 48 hours / weekMaximum of 45 hours / week
Maternity Leave60 days98 days
Paternity LeaveNo provision for paternity leave7 days of consecutive paid paternity leave

Now let’s look at non-negotiable types of leave in Malaysia.

Mandatory Types of Leave

The mandatory types of leave listed below can be found in the act, and employers must obey them or expose the company to legal action. Give the act a read – but finish this guide first!

1. Paid annual leave

Paid annual leave is simply a way for employees to take a break and unwind while still receiving their monthly salary. Bosses may not like the sound of that, but the fact is it avoids burnout and slumps in productivity.

employee relaxing during paid annual leave
The Monday morning we all dream of.

Legal entitlement to paid annual leave In Malaysia is as follows:

  • 8 days annually if employed between 1 – 2 years
  • 12 days annually if employed between 2 – 5 years
  • 16 days annually if employed for more than 5 years

If an employee has worked for less than 12 months, their annual leave will be proportional to the number of months in employment. For example, if Abu has been a cashier at a supermarket for six months, he is entitled to 4 days of paid annual leave.

Some additional notes:

  1. It’s separate from rest days, holidays, and other types of leave.
  2. If an employee is eligible to claim sick or maternity leave while on annual leave, their annual leave is considered unclaimed.
  3. If an employee misses work for more than 10% of their working days in a year without cause, they forfeit their right to annual leave (though in a way, they’ve already taken it).
  4. There is no legal obligation to carry unused annual leave forward.
  5. There is no legally mandated notice period for annual leave – it’s up to the employer to set guidelines.

2. Paid sick leave

On account of pesky bacteria and whatnot, people tend to get sick. When your head feels like a kettle of boiling water and your nose leaks radioactive waste, spreadsheets are the last thing on your mind. We’re not showing a photo – too gross even for us.

That’s when you go to the doctor and claim paid sick leave.

Legal entitlement to paid sick leave (without hospitalisation) in Malaysi is as follows:

  • 14 days annually if employed for 1 – 2 years
  • 18 days annually if employed for 2 – 5 years
  • 22 days annually if employed for more than 5 years

Some additional notes:

  1. Employees must get certified by a registered medical practitioner or dental surgeon (covered by the Dental Act 1971).
  2. Employees must at least make an honest attempt to inform employers of their situation within 48 hours of needing to take sick leave.
  3. Failing the above, the employee may be considered absent from work without just cause.

3. Hospitalisation leave

This is an extension of sick leave, but we think it’s significant enough to merit its own section.

Where hospitalisation is necessary, add 60 days to each of the paid sick leave categories above, which means:

74 days annually if employed for 1 – 2 years
78 days annually if employed for 2 – 5 years
82 days annually if employed for more than 5 years

4. Maternity leave

From time to time, your female employees will take Human Resources a little too literally and produce a tiny human being of their own. Woohoo – new future unpaid interns!

By law, they will be entitled to paid maternity leave if they meet the following two conditions:

  • they have worked for a total of at least 90 days in the nine months before childbirth, and
  • they have been employed within the four months before childbirth.
malaysian mother hugging her newborn on maternity leave
This is why maternity leave is important.

In Malaysia, the legal entitlement to maternity leave is 98 days.

Some additional notes:

  1. It cannot start earlier than 30 days before the expected date of childbirth and cannot start later than the day after giving birth
  2. If an employee chooses to begin maternity leave earlier than 30 days before her due date, those extra days won’t be counted as part of her official maternity leave.
  3. A medical professional can decide that an employee should start her maternity leave within 14 days before her due date (this one is for the workaholics out there).

You may find versions of the Employment Act that mandate 60 days of maternity leave; those are outdated after an amendment was passed in 2022. That same amendment is also the reason for the next entry.

5. Paternity leave

Thanks to the 2022 amendment to the Employment Act, fathers are entitled to 7 consecutive days of paid paternity leave, provided they are legally married to the mother of the child.

6. Public holidays

Every employee in Malaysia is entitled to eleven gazetted public holidays, with five specific holidays:

  • National Day,
  • Birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
  • Birthday of the Ruler of the State OR Federal Territory Day
  • Workers’ Day, and
  • Malaysia Day

The remaining six days can fall on any public holidays that year that are included in the Holidays Act 1951.

traditional dish enjoyed during one of the most important muslim celebrations in malaysia and a good time to give a public holiday leave
Hint: include special events of major cultures.

Some additional notes:

  1. If a public holiday falls on a rest day (such as a Sunday) or another public holiday, the day immediately after will be turned into a paid holiday as a substitute.
  2. If an employee is on sick or annual leave during a public holiday, they are owed a replacement day.
  3. If an employee is absent from work on the day immediately before or after a public holiday with no just cause, they forfeit the right to the paid holiday.

Alright, that wraps up the six mandatory types of leave under the Employment Act.

Now let’s take a quick look at other common types of leave.

Non-Mandatory Types of Leave

Employers don’t have to offer these but look down the list and you’ll understand why many companies today go above and beyond.

non mandatory leaves are a good incentive for employee loyalty
I give you carrot, you give me soul.

To those that don’t, we hope you have a pretty good reason!

1. Unpaid leave

This is a period of time when an employee takes time off from work but does not receive regular pay or salary. Usually, it is because they have exhausted their annual paid leave but are still not ready to return to work.

2. Emergency leave

This type of leave allows employees to take time off from work without prior notice due to an urgent and unforeseen situation, such as a family emergency or personal crisis. The classic case would be when an employee’s car suddenly breaks down, followed closely by their mental state.

3. Compassionate leave

Compassionate leave covers significant life events such as the loss of a beloved pet or the diagnosis of a terminal illness in the family. Logically, the employee would not be able to focus at work anyway, and it would be better to let them focus on processing their grief.

4. Marriage leave

Marriage leave is a special type of paid time off given to employees to celebrate their wedding day. In some cultures, weddings can take a tremendous amount of planning and ceremonies can span weeks, so some time off could be considered.

Dealing with a mother-in-law should be considered its own job, after all.

5. Disaster leave

If your employee’s house gets flooded, are you really going to ask them to come to office by motorboat?

The above question doesn’t apply to motorboat dealerships.

6. Study / examination leave

This allows employees to take time off from work to attend classes, lectures, or prepare for exams related to their field of study.

7. Birthday leave

It’s not technically their birthday, but hey, it’s a big deal for some people and allows employees to rest, spend time with family and friends, and feel noticed and appreciated by the company.

Plus, it saves you the trouble of singing the song at the office!

8. Childcare leave

Childcare leave enables employees to take time off work to care for their children. This can be especially useful for new fathers who only have seven days of legal paid paternity leave.

It could be worse: imagine them bringing their child to work.

9. Haji leave

This allows Muslim employees to take time off from work to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage, which is an important religious duty for Muslims. Considering Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, this can be an attractive proposition.

Let MISHU craft perfect policies for you

CTA for Malay site Ayu min

Our HR consultants are ready to help you create and implement workplace policies backed by years of experience and inside out knowledge of the law, ensuring deadlines are met, workloads are distributed evenly, and decisions made without bias.

Key Takeaways:

  • The statutory source of information on leave policies is the Employment Act 1955 which we highly encourage all employers and employees to read.
  • There was a recent amendment to the Employment Act that took effect in January 2023 covering various areas of employment including leave policies.
  • The six types of mandatory leave in Malaysia are: public holidays as well as annual, sick, hospitalization, maternity, paternity leave.
  • Other types of leave are not mandatory but enhance the proposition to potential and existing talent. It makes them feel more valued and some people really do prioritise time over money.
  • Crafting the perfect leave policy for your organization can be a total headache – hire us to do it for you instead!

FAQs about Types of Leave in Malaysia:

  • How many compulsory leaves are Malaysian employers required to provide?
    💡Malaysian employers are required to provide a minimum of 6 compulsory leaves to their employees: annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, marriage leave, and public holidays.

  • How many optional leaves are Malaysian employers allowed to provide?
    💡Malaysian employers are allowed to provide as many optional leaves to their employees as they see fit.

  • Can employers restrict the usage of compulsory leaves?
    💡Yes and no. Employers can establish certain guidelines and restrictions for usage of compulsory leaves, as long as they comply with employment laws and regulations in Malaysia.

  • Can you give me an example of guidelines that restrict with compliance?
    💡All companies must allow a set amount of unpaid annual leave, but some companies may allow employees to carry forward certain unused compulsory leaves to the following year, while others may require the leaves to be utilised within the same year.

35 thoughts on “6 Compulsory & 9 Optional Leave Policies In Malaysia [2024 Update]

  1. Hi ,can i ask for the sick leave ,if employees provide the sick leave (Chinese medical certificate ), Malaysia labour law accept?

    1. Hi Siew, thanks for the question. We asked our HR team, and it depends on which Chinese medical centre, though as long it’s recognised under KKM, the medical cert should be valid. For example, in KL only Tung Shin Hospital KL and Sunway Medical centre are recognised under KKM. For other states, you’ll have to ask if they’re recognised by KKM. Hope this helps!

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  2. Hi, I would like to ask about compassionate leave. My staff’s husband has passed away last week, but she is still not coming in to work yet. I would like to ask, how many days is she entitled for the compassionate leave?

    1. Hi Callie,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      We forwarded your question to our resident HR consultant Abigail, and these are her thoughts on the matter:

      1. Compassionate leave is not mandatory by law and is at every employer’s discretion.
      2. If there is no existing allowance for compassionate leave the staff must rely on paid annual leave.
      3. If there is allowance for compassionate leave, ideally there should be some form of documentation, such as a death certificate.
      4. Ideally, all information should be documented in an Employee Handbook so parties are aligned – makes it super easy to deal with situations like these 🙂

      If you don’t currently have a handbook, may we email you Abigail’s contact so you can take it up directly with her?

      We hope all turns out well!

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  3. Hi, can I ask, it’s a rightful for my company to restrict their employees to utilize 50% of their annual leaves entitlement for the first half of the year? According to the company’s Memo, any leaves balance from the first half of the year will not be approved nor considered if we wish to carry forward to second half of the year. Meaning to say that, if we have 14 days of annual leaves, we must utilize 7 days within Jan to June of each year, any balance of the 7 days annual leaves will be forfeited at second half of the year. This happened to East Malaysia company and may I check whether is this in accordance to Malaysia Employment Act? Thanks

    1. Hi Elisa,

      Thanks for getting in touch. We forwarded your question to our HR consultant and this is her response:

      1. Employers cannot burn accumulated annual leave in East Malaysia, as employees by law have 12 months into the following year to utilise their accumulated leave balance.

      2. In Semenanjung Malaysia, there is no equivalent law and it is up to the employer’s discretion, so long as they meet minimum requirements for annual leave.

      Hope this answers your question!

      The MISHU Editorial team

  4. hi, I just wanna ask about the medical leave / sick leave , does we count include Sunday, if the doctor giving a sick leave for 2weeks , can we count the Sunday as a sick leave day, because working days is only from Monday to Saturday..sunday is the rest day. please help me to source this problem.. thank you

    1. Hi Ki,

      Thanks for getting in touch. We forwarded your question to our HR consultant, and this is her response:

      1. There are two separate items with similar names: the leave policy and the leave application policy.

      2. Both are actually specific clauses inside the company’s employee handbook rather than a standalone document.

      3. We would be happy to help, but could you specify which clause you’re seeking help with?

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  5. Hi. Would like to ask if parents could use their children’s MC to deduct sick leave?
    So like if the child is sick and mum or dad needs to take the day off to care for the sick child, instead of deducting their own annual leave they submit their child’s doctor’s letter to apply for sick leave?

    Hope my question is clear.

    I also saw from the other comments and am hoping to get a copy of the employee handbook as well.

    Thanks so much in advance!

    1. Hi Alexis,

      Thank you for getting in touch. We’ve forwarded your question to our HR expert, and this is their response:

      1. Nothing in the Employment Act allows parents to use their child’s MC for their own personal medical leave.
      2. As you know, companies must give employees a certain number of days of annual leave, which is officially what this parent should be using.
      3. Any additional leave, such as childcare leave, is at the full discretion of the employer.

      It’s a tough spot to be in as a parent and employee, but we’d just like to add that the law aims to safeguard the rights of both employers and employees without undermining any one party.

      We hope that addresses your question, and yes, we’d be happy to send you a copy!

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  6. Hi, i just want to know that after each biggest celebration such as Chinese New year and Hari Raya, our company told us they it should be consider as compulsory leaves which means deducted from our annual leaves.
    Is this possible are Employer entitled to do so?
    Thank you for your reply.

    1. Hi Linda,

      Thank you for getting in touch. We’ve forwarded your question to our HR expert, and this is their response:

      1. If the company chooses to remain open during a public holiday, staff who need time off can apply for leave, which will be deducted from their annual leave.
      2. If the company chooses to close for an extended period, they cannot legally force employees to use up their annual leave.

      If your employer is currently forcing this on staff, consider raising the matter with the Labour Department here: https://jtksm.mohr.gov.my/en/services/labour-complaint/acts-guidelines

      Hope this helps and please get in touch if you need more clarification.

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  7. Hi, can i ask, can employer deduct staff annual leave for being late everyday (1 hour late). Once annual leave finished deducting, then continue to deduct with unpaid leave?

    1. Hi Deric,

      Thank you for getting in touch. We’ve forwarded your question to our HR expert, and this is their response:

      1. What’s being proposed here is 100% illegal and a grounds for employees to file a compliant with the Labour Department.
      2. If is hasn’t yet been done, consider counselling the staff member to get them to be more punctual.For example, use an appraisal system to show them areas in need of imporovement and how it will affect thier bonuses.

      We have more suggestions, but we think for now these would be our immediate responses to your question. Let us know if more help is needed!

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  8. Hi,

    I would like to ask regarding compassionate leave. Either this leave would be reset every year like annual leave or employee only entitle the balance if they already take this leave in the previous year.

    Thank you for your reply.

    1. Hi Ayra,

      Thank you for getting in touch. We’ve forwarded your question to our HR expert, and this is their response:

      1. Compassionate leave is not mandatory by law, and so it’s completely up to the employer how to implement it.
      2. The important thing is to clearly communicate it to employees, and to ensure consistent implementation (aka no favouritism).

      Hope this helps!

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  9. Would it be okay for me to include this content in my dataset? Just to assure you, this data is being collected for my personal hobby as a data scientist, and I’ll be citing the source in all cases. Here my campus page at Kampus Terbaik Thanks! ID : CMT-Q49943R9MN40GG8BBL

    1. Hey there,

      Thanks for getting in touch – and yes, we would be glad to discuss this further. Expect an email very soon!

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  10. Hi!

    Medical Leave includes weekend Saturday and Sunday? For example doctor give me 2 weeks medical leave. 14-12-2023 to 28-12-2023 so my medical leave consider 10 days or 14 days? My working days is on Monday to Friday, weekend rest days.

    Many thank in advance.

  11. Hi Sir/Madam,

    Can a company restricted employees from taking leave during festive seasons? For example, Chinese for CNY only, Christian for X’mas only, Muslim for Raya and Haji only. Please advise, thanks

    1. Hi Alice,

      What a relevant question for the Malaysian workforce. We’ve forwarded it to our HR expert, and this is their response:

      1. Yes, depending on industry, a business can restrict employees from taking leave during holidays, but it will be subject to the holiday pay clause in the Employment Act.
      2. With a big enough workforce, consider rotating systems: say this year employee A goes on leave while B works, next year employee A works while employee B goes on leave.

      We hope this answers your question!

      The MISHU Editorial team

  12. Hi Alice,

    Just would like to ask is it any Labour Law states that both superiors (senior staff) cannot take leave on the same day even though they are in different departments.

    Also if emergency leave (consider unpaid leave), do we need to explain the reason for leave. Eg : if personal issues do we need to explain in details to HR

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    Does one offer guest writers to write content for you?
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    1. Hi Sarasvathi,
      Thank you for the question, we forwarded it to our HR and employment law expert, and here’s their reply:

      1. There’s no specific requirement for employers in education compared to other sectors in Malaysia
      2. This means an education institution must provide the minimum quantity and types of leave as required by the Employment Act (which we’ve outlined in the ‘compulsory’ bit of this guide!)
      3. Of course, they may provide more, but that is 100% at their discretion.
      4. If, however, an employer has promised certain types of leave policies in official documents such as contracts or employee handbooks, then the employer is obligated to follow it.

      Hope this answers your question and let us know if you have any others!

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  14. Hi, Sir/madam,
    We have staffs being called back to work on rest day (Sunday). Company agreed to give them a replacement leave. My question is should these leaves be taken and completed before they can take their Annual leave or anytime they wish?

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Amy,

      Thank you for the question, we forwarded it to our HR and employment law expert, and here’s their reply:

      1. Replacement leave should be used before Annual Leave.
      2. Standard practice is for staff to use up their Replacement Leave within the same payroll month.
      3. If allowed to accumulate and carried forward, it could cause disruptions to business operations around key periods.

      Hope this answers your question and let us know if you have any others!

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  15. My employer deduct 4 days leaves from my salary when I applied Friday and Monday off for unpaid leave after I used up my annual leave. My working days only Monday to Friday. my employer said labour law said so. My employer said if you take unpaid leave you can only take for a period of time. Since I took Friday off and only resume work on Tuesday. I will be counted absent from work from Friday to Monday (4days) even our office is closed on Saturday and Sunday. is this true interpretation of labour law?

    1. Hi Janet,
      Thank you for the question, we forwarded it to our HR and employment law expert, and here’s their reply:

      1. Based on the facts provided and to the best of their knowledge, your employer is only entitled to deduct two days of leave.
      2. However, they stressed that payroll calculations can differ depending on clauses in employment contracts.
      3. For this reason, the best authority to turn to for assistance might be Jabatan Tenaga Kerja, which you can access here https://jtksm.mohr.gov.my/en/services/complaints

      Hope this answers your question and we wish you a swift resolution!

      The MISHU Editorial Team

  16. Hi,
    Is it mandatory to take those 5 mandatory leaves? Can i replace the mandatory leaves with any other days?

    I don’t want to take these mandatory leaves instead i will work those days and replace it with other normal days.
    I cannot find anywhere stating these are 5 compulsory leaves and cannot be replaced with any other days.

    Thank you in advance for your reply.

    1. Hi John,

      We forwarded your question to our employment law expert, and they have requested some clarifying information:

      1. Could you specify what five mandatory leaves you’re referring to?
      2. Could you specify which industry you work in?

      This is to ensure our suggestions are based on correct facts in your case.

      The MISHU Editorial Team

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