Recent global economic fluctuation has caused much anxiety among fellow Malaysians. While domestic economic reports indicated that Malaysia has experienced a robust growth in 2016, the widespread reporting of the weakening ringgit against many international currencies has, to a certain degree, induced paranoia among the people.

The prospect of losing one's income, either due to a temporary cause such as dismissal by the employer, or a permanent loss of employability such as injury or disability, is nerve-wrecking for everyone. Fluctuations in the pharmacy job markets and recent structural changes to provisionally-registered pharmacist training programmes sent worrying signals to the profession that a career in pharmacy may not be as stable and, some may believe, even lucrative as previously thought.

In the face of these challenging times, it is always valuable to explore any safety nets that may help to shield us during rainy days in the future.

At the time of this writing, Malaysia has yet to introduce any unemployment benefits system that is dedicated to helping Malaysians who are willing and able to work, but are not able to find a job. However, not all hope is lost as there are several other welfare benefits systems in place to help the unemployed through difficult times.

Severance pay

Under the Malaysian Employment Act 1955, if an employee’s work contract is terminated by the employer, he or she is entitled to the severance pay. Severance pay is also otherwise known as retrenchment benefits, or termination and lay-off benefits.

It is important to understand that severance pay is not equivalent to unemployment benefits. It only serves the purpose of providing sufficient coverage on basic expenses to the unemployed Malaysian until he or she finds the next job.

Employees Provident Fund

The second type of welfare benefits system is the well-known Employees Provident Fund (EPF), or otherwise known as KWSP (Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja) in the Malay language.

With exceptions to a small group of people such as expatriates and domestic workers, the Employees Provident Fund Act 1951 states that all employers and employees are made compulsory to contribute towards this fund.

Although EPF contributors are now allowed to withdraw their money for specific purposes, the Fund does not provide monetary aid to those who are unemployed and thus cannot qualify as a true unemployment or disability benefit to Malaysians. Pharmacists working in the Malaysian public sector are given the flexibility to contribute to the EPF or to select the alternative pension scheme provided by the government.

Social Security Organisation (SOCSO)

The third safety net available to Malaysian pharmacists is the payment of benefits to workers who sustain employment injury or invalidity under the Employment Injury Scheme and Invalidity Pension Scheme. Both employers and employees can contribute to the SOCSO scheme, where it provides monetary coverage to workers who sustain injuries from industrial accidents, occupational diseases, accidents, invalidity or death.

This is especially valuable to pharmacists who are regularly exposed to various risk factors that may threaten their ability to work. For example, routine contact with cytotoxic and radioactive agents may render a pharmacist vulnerable to a wide-ranging of health issues from contact dermatitis to cancer.

All in all, current unemployment and disability benefits system in the country is not as comprehensive when compared to developed nations. Nonetheless, the threat of losing one’s financial capability is real and should not be dismissed hastily. Pharmacists are encouraged to explore alternative options, and most importantly, be financially savvy. It is always a good idea to set aside a little money for the rainy days. MIMS

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Lie E, Kwong W. Unemployment-Related Benefits Systems in Malaysia. Hong Kong; 2000.
Raman P. National Experience : Proposals for implementing Unemployment/Employment Insurance System in Malaysia. 2015