In addition, SOCSO clarified the move matches international standards, including those set out by the ILO, as well as is part of Malaysia's roadmap to making the COVID-19 disease endemic.
The act of processing benefit claims for COVID-19 cases as an 'occupational disease' is in accordance with Malaysia's standard operating procedures (SOP) as part of its move into the endemic phase, the Social Security Organisation (Pertubuhan Keselamatan Sosial, SOCSO) said in response to Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Secretary General (SG), Kamarul Baharin Mansor's statement implying that it is a regressive move.
SOCSO added that this approach is "appropriate, and fully subject to" the Social Security Act Employees 1969 (Act 4), as well as in line with international reporting practices. "As such, SOCSO urges the MTUC to refer to the report that has been issued by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in relation to classification COVID-19 as an 'occupational disease' by ILO member countries around the world, where it is in line with the steps taken by SOCSO."
This clarification comes as according to a report by Malaysiakini, the SG in his statement called upon Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to intervene as SOCSO's move "did not take into account workers' interests". Meanwhile, a separate report by Free Malaysia Today revealed SG Kamarul requesting PM Ismail to "look into" the management of SOCSO funds "to preserve workers’ confidence in the organisation".
Continuing in its response, SOCSO shared: "Per the media statement issued by SOCSO previously dated 1 April 2022, COVID-19 virus is among the diseases listed in the Table Fifth, Act 4, and may be considered as a 'service disease' by SOCSO's panel doctors."
"However, on the basis of concern to help Malaysians, particularly the working class, in the face of the challenging impacts of a pandemic COVID-19, SOCSO has taken proactive action by processing the cases where the claims involved COVID-19 as an ‘occupational disease’."
Separately, the organisation noted that as of 14 May 2022, it has received a total of 181,184 interest claims for the cases of COVID-19. Of that amount, SOCSO has paid more than RM161mn to insured employees since the grant of this benefit was first implemented on 24 February 2021.
"This is a manifestation of the Government's concern and commitment through SOCSO in improving its social protection network to maintain and guarantee the wellbeing of the Malaysian Family, especially for its more than 9mn contributors across countries, including in the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic," the spokesperson shared.
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