Under Malaysian employment law employees are entitled to at least one day off per week, with the maximum standard working week set at 48 hours over six days, although many businesses work 40 hours over five days. Typical business hours are Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, although in some areas different working structures are common due to religious considerations.
The majority of people working in Malaysia are entitled to at least eight days of paid annual leave each year, with this allowance rising annually by length of service. Paid sick leave and maternity leave of no less than 60 days are also defined by Malaysian law.
Because if its multiculturalism, Malaysia has a generous allocation of public holidays, with around 14 dates observed nationally each year and various additional state holidays celebrated around the country. Most employees are entitled to at least ten public holidays as paid leave. For a more comprehensive guide to holiday dates, including state lists and explanations of the law surrounding public holiday allowances, visit the Public Holidays Malaysia website.
Public holiday dates
New Year’s Day January 01
Federal Territory Day February 01
Chinese New Year February 8
Labour Day in Malaysia May 01
Wesak Day (Buddha’s Birthday) May 21
King’s Birthday Malaysia June 04
Hari Raya Puasa (End of Ramadan) July 06
Merdeka Day (National Day) August 31
Hari Raya Haji (Festival of Sacrifice) September 12
Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year) October 2
Deepavali (Festival of Lights) October 29
Christmas Day Friday, December 25
Visas and eligibility to work
Citizens of many nations are allowed to visit Malaysia for between 30 and 60 days without applying for a visa beforehand. However, this should not be mistaken for relaxed immigration laws – although a fairly small number of nationalities require a visa to visit Malaysia the law surrounding living and working there is much more complex. Note that the list of nationalities that require employment visas is different to those who need visitor visas.
In some sectors, Malaysian businesses are restricted in the number of foreign nationals they can employ, so for this reason it is important to have a job offer before applying for Malaysian visas or work permits. There are several types of employment pass which may be issued to foreign workers depending on work type and the duration of stay, so contact your employer for more information. Foreign nationals who have lived in Malaysia for more than 3 years may be able to apply for permanent residency or citizenship through various schemes. Be aware that all permanent residents must have a MyPR identity card, while citizens must hold a MyKad equivalent. Foreign nationals who plan to retire to Malaysia could also consider applying for the Malaysia My Second Home (MMSH) scheme.
Tax and insurance
Income tax rates in Malaysia are fairly low compared to many countries, with top earners taxed at under 30%. Most employers deduct tax directly from your wages, so you will need to apply for a tax number. For tax purposes, anyone who remains in the country for over 182 days is considered a resident. If you work in the country for a shorter period then you will either be tax exempt or be taxed at non-resident rates. Malaysian citizens are required to make social security contributions through a scheme known as PERKESO or SOCSO. Non-resident workers are not covered by this scheme, but are instead insured by their employer through the Foreign Workers Hospitalisation and Social Insurance Scheme (SKHPPA). For more information, visit the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia website.
The mandatory pension system in Malaysia is called the Employee Provident Fund (EPF). Contributions are compulsory for Malaysian citizens but not for foreign nationals. Although foreign workers can now opt in to the EPF, there are still restrictions on withdrawals for foreigners, so many choose to take out private pensions instead. Some employers do offer pension schemes, but this is less common among Malaysian businesses.
Despite major improvements in the overall system in recent years, foreign nationals living in Malaysia still have little or no access to state benefits unless they take Malaysian citizenship. You may however be entitled to claim benefits in your home country.
The rights of disabled workers in Malaysia are defined under the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008, with employers legally obliged to promote access to the workplace for disabled people.