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Nov 18 and 19 - Special Public Holidays, Do you observe them?

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Explanation No 1

In Malaysia, there are 3 pieces of Employment Legislation, i.e.

  • Employment Act 1955;

  • Sabah Labour Ordinance;

  • Sarawak Labour Ordinance.

The Employment Act, the Sabah Labour Ordinance, and the Sarawak Labour Ordinance each have their own rules and regulations.

Section 60D(1) of the Malaysian Employment Act says that all employees are entitled to 11 gazetted public holidays, including,

  • The National Day

  • The Workers’ Day

  • The Malaysia Day (September 16)

  • The birthday of the Ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri or Federal Territory day

  • The birthday of Yang-Di Pertuan Agong; AND

Special Public Holidays

  • on any day appointed as a public holiday for that particular year under section 8 of the Holidays Act 1951 [Act 369]; or

  • on any day declared as a public holiday by the Government of the State (Applicable to Sabah and Sarawak)

When talking about the Public Holidays

Public holidays in Malaysia are set by both the federal government and the states. They are mostly based on a list of federal holidays celebrated all over the country, plus a few extra holidays celebrated by each state and federal territory.

The legislation governing public holidays in Malaysia includes:

  • the Holidays Act 1951 (Act 369) in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan;

  • the Holidays Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 56) in Sabah, and

  • the Public Holidays Ordinance (Sarawak Cap. 8) in Sarawak.

Holidays by Declaration

Section 8 of the Holidays Act of 1951 says that the Prime Minister, by notification in the Gazette or in such other manner as he thinks fit, can make any day a public holiday :

  • in the whole of Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan,

  • in one of the federal territories or

  • in one of the states after consulting with the government of that state.

To encourage the people to carry out their responsibility and vote on polling day on Saturday, Caretaker Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has declared Nov 18 and 19 public holidays on November 14, 2022.

The notification can be found here:-

Notification under Section 8 - P.U(B) 556
Download PDF • 390KB

Then, how about Sabah and Sarawak?

In Sabah and Sarawak, the power to declare any day as a public holiday rests with the state governor (in practice, exercised on the state government's advice) under the states' respective Holidays Ordinances.

Last Saturday (Nov 12), Abang Johari had said Sarawak did not feel it was necessary to declare a public holiday on polling eve as an extra rest day for workers could affect productivity.

He had said the state government needed to consider the economic impact of a decision like declaring a special public holiday.

BUT, Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg (pic) said the state decided on this in line with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob's announcement that Nov 18 and 19 will be public holidays this afternoon.

He added this was important to allow the democratic process to go ahead smoothly and facilitate voting.

Following an announcement from caretaker Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri, the Sabah state government has also agreed to declare November 18 and 19 as public holidays.

Chief minister Datuk Hajiji Noor said that the state has agreed to the two days off to make it easier for Sabahans to carry out their civic duties and vote on Saturday.

So, now Public holidays have been declared on the polling day for a general election, then two practical questions are being arisen.

  1. Must employers follow?

  2. How about the pay if employees are required to work on these 2 days?

To answer question No 1, please see Explanation No 2

Explanation No 2 - 5

Who is Covered in the Employment Act, Sabah Labour Ordinance & Sarawak Labour Ordinance?

I know there is an Amendment Act to the Employment Act 1955; however, as of today, the applicability of the labour regulations in Malaysia, governed by the First Schedule of the Employment Act, 1955/Sabah Labour Ordinance & Sarawak Labour Ordinance, only applies to:

  • Employees who have entered into a contract of service with an employer and whose monthly wages do not exceed RM2,000 (Sabah Labour Ordinance & Sarawak Labour Ordinance: RM2,500), regardless of the occupation

  • Employees who have entered into a contract of service with an employer and whose monthly wages exceed RM2,000 (Sabah Labour Ordinance & Sarawak Labour Ordinance: RM2,500) but are engaged in the following:

  • Manual labour

  • Maintenance or operation of any mechanically propelled vehicle

  • Supervision other employees involved in manual labour

  • Any vessel registered in Malaysia

  • Domestic service

  • he is engaged in recruiting employees (Sabah Labour Ordinance & Sarawak Labour Ordinance ONLY)

What about employees who fall outside the scope of the Employment Act 1955 (i.e. non-EA Employees), Sabah Labour Ordinance & Sarawak Labour Ordinance?

Employees who are not covered by the Employment Act of 1955, Sabah Labour Ordinance & Sarawak Labour Ordinance are legally obligated to abide by the conditions of their employment contract. If there is nothing in the contract about public holidays, it is usually up to the employer to decide whether or not to take the day off.

But in practice, though, most employers choose to give non-EA employees the same public holidays as their EA employees because it makes things easier for them to manage.

What if there was no Employment Contract given?

An employment Contract sets out the rights and obligations of both the employee and their employer, referred to as the “terms” of employment.

In light of the Company's practice

However, it is a common misconception that all terms of employment have to be written down in a formal document. Terms may be agreed upon orally or In light of the Company's practice and not committed to writing, but they will still be legally binding on the parties.

Hence, for the sake of clarity, it is always preferable to have a written employment contract, employee handbook or company policies.

An employee handbook helps new employees learn about the company's rules, policies, culture, and values. It will also help protect the company from legal issues. New employees are usually provided with an employee handbook during the onboarding process.

Explanation No 6

In the exercise of t