SINGAPORE: To help its Malaysian employees head home for Malaysia’s 14th general election (GE14) on May 9, Swedish furniture giant Ikea said on Thursday it will give them an extra day of paid leave.
But the employer appears to be the exception. It was the only company contacted by TODAY Online that is making a special concession to help Malaysian employees return home to vote. Out of about 30 firms contacted, five responded to queries.
The Malaysian Election Commission’s announcement this week of polling day, which is a Wednesday, has triggered a scramble for bus and plane tickets among overseas Malaysians looking to travel home.
Malaysians living in Singapore, Brunei, southern Thailand and Kalimantan in Indonesia are not eligible to vote by post and are required to return to the country on election day to cast their vote.
About 80 Malaysians work at Ikea’s stores and service office in Singapore. “Ikea Southeast Asia has decided to extend one paid day of leave to any Malaysian co-worker who wishes to travel home in order to cast a vote,” said Corinna Schuler, Ikea Southeast Asia’s head of corporate communication.
“We want to enable our co-workers to take individual responsibility in their communities and countries as well. This benefit will make it a little easier for them to exercise the right to vote in Malaysia’s election,” she said.
Those who need more than one day off will be able to apply for annual leave, she added.
Some firms cited operational constraints and said they would monitor the situation.
Public bus operator Go-Ahead Singapore – the only one out of four here that responded to media queries by Thursday evening – said it supports its Malaysian workers who wish to vote in the general election, but this is “conditional upon the complete fulfilment” of its operational requirements.
As Go-Ahead Singapore’s shift schedules are planned, most Malaysian employees will have “ample time” to return home, said a spokesperson. The company will facilitate feasible arrangements where necessary.
Semi-conductor firm Infineon Technologies does not expect the impact of Malaysian workers heading home to vote to be significant, but is “closely monitoring the development” and gathering feedback from workers.
More than a quarter of its staff are Malaysian, and Infineon’s spokesman said it may tap Singaporeans and workers of other nationalities to work overtime to keep its production line running normally.
“There is no special provision like early release, at least not until the polling hours are known,” said the spokesman.
Some Malaysian workers may also be “less willing to go through the inconveniences (of travelling back) on a hectic day like this”, he added.
The National Healthcare Group (NHG) and supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice said their Malaysian staff who wish to return to Malaysia to vote could apply for annual leave.
“We do not expect our operations to be affected as the majority of FairPrice’s workforce is Singaporean. Shift work also provides flexibility in deployment of staff and limits disruption to operations. While there is no special leave provision for this day, employees can apply for leave as per FairPrice’s usual internal leave application process,” said FairPrice’s spokesman.
“Similar to all leave applications, approval of annual leave is subject to operational constraints. NHG will facilitate and support such leave applications where operationally possible,” said NHG’s spokesman.