Project Title: Thriving Spaces Sabah

Project Dates: 15 October 2022 – 30 September 2023

Funder: National Democratic Institute (NDI)

Project Objectives

  1. To improve the understanding of relevant laws and policies pertaining to employment and sexual harassment in the workplace among working people in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
  2. To encourage the amendment of the Sabah Labour Ordinance 1950 that aligns with international best practices
  3. To build a working group that will focus on enhancing and promoting current procedures on reporting incidents at the workplace.


Cases of sexual harassment happening in workplaces in Sabah is on the rise, but many go unreported as most of those who experience it do not know where to go or what to do to take action. Most of it is due to fear – they are intimidated by police or told not to take action by relatives or employers.
Section 81F of the Federal Employment Act 1955 imposes a mandatory obligation for employers to investigate any complaints of sexual harassment.

However, Sabah has a separate law governing employment matters, which is the Sabah Labour Ordinance 1950. This law does not contain the needed sections to protect the Sabah working people from sexual harassment in the workplace. It is hoped that together with amendments to the Sabah Labour ordinance, the Sexual Harassment Bill will also be passed to ensure better coverage of sexual harassment offences and proper remedies are specified to pave the way for more justice for survivors.

Also, while the Federal Employment Act has been amended to include paternity leave and extended maternity leave, there is no indication that similar amendments will be made to the Sabah Labour Ordinance to streamline the local employment laws with the federal employment laws, or abide by best practices as outlined by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Generally, most working people in Sabah also are not aware of their rights while under employment and are at risk of being exploited by unscrupulous employers.

This project aims to enable safe, supportive and respectful environments at workplaces in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, through engaging with local stakeholders and authorities, workshops on employment rights, gender sensitization and sexual harassment prevention,

Through these activities, the participants, who are made up of members of the CSO Platform for Reform Sabah Chapter and other Sabahan CSOs, will be better informed about the different laws that govern Sabah and the rest of Malaysia on the topic of employment and sexual harassment at the workplace. 


Opis Idamanku (13-15 January 2023, UCSF)

In January, SERATA organized the first workshop – Opis Idamanku, which translates to “my ideal workplace”. The workshop took place over the course of 3 days in-person where the main target audience were individuals from partnering Civil Society Organizations, NGOs and individuals working in advocacy work.

The workshop invited multiple speakers from various backgrounds, including government bodies like Jabatan Tenaga Kerja Sabah, whom SERATA had made the courtesy visit to earlier in December, and also Social Security Organization (SOCSO) also recognised as PERKESO. Other speakers came from partnering organizations like SAWO – Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group, an organization that have aligned goals with SERATA, AWAM – All Women’s Action Society which was closely involved in the drafting of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill 2021 and we also had a Deputy Public Prosecutor, who ran through the relevant laws and case studies pertaining to sexual harassment cases. The workshop also featured a representative from the Labour Law Reform Coalition, which touched on the current amendments being done by the Malaysian Trade Union Council together with the Labour Law Reform Coalition specifically in regards to the Sabah and Sarawak Labour Ordinance.

Stakeholder Roundtables: Promoting CSO-Partnerships to assist with labour issues in Sabah (4th March 2023, Avangio Hotel)

After the workshop was held in January, SERATA set out to have a Roundtable Discussion with relevant stakeholders and participants that attended the workshop. The aim of holding the Roundtable Discussion was to create more awareness and build knowledge on the current labour issues surrounding the Sabah Labour Ordinance 1950.

Panel Discussions:
Session 1 – Parental leave: Why is it important for working families?
Session 2 – Sexual harassment at the workplace
Session 3 – Engagement with Govt. Agencies and Employee/Employer Unions

Courtesy Visits

We have successfully completed 6 courtesy visits in mapping the landscape of labour protections and laws in Sabah:
1. Sabah Law Society – 13 December 2022
2. Jabatan Tenaga Kerja Sabah – 21 December 2022
3. Sabah Employers Association – 14 February 2023
4. Jabatan Hal Ehwal Kesatuan Pekerja – 21 February 2023
5. Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah D11 – 17 April 2023
6. Ministry of Community Development and People’s Wellbeing Sabah – 18 April 2023