“I wasn’t sleeping!”

This would be a common answer by employees caught by their employer.

In every Company, there is a Code of Conduct which lists out the non ethical actions that employees are required to adhere too. Yet it cannot be helped at times that there are employees that sleep during working hours and the question that needs to be asked is whether this would amount to a major or minor misconduct. 

Sleeping during work may seem like a small issue. Yet, these would lead to productivity issues,  potential health and safety hazards depending on the role and responsibility. These can be illustrated in the cases below: – 

In Kuala Lumpur Glass Manufacturers Co Sdn. Bhd. Hamzah Gemok [1988] Award No.204 of 1988, a security guard was found to be sleeping during work and only woke up upon hearing the clock in of the General Manager. The Courts were held that “Sleeping while on duty is regarded as a serious misconduct more so when the offender is a security guard and therefore responsible for the safety and security of the area he has to guard. The punishment of dismissal meted out to him is justified.”

In the case of Muniama a/p Rangasami lwn Flextronics Technology (M) Sdn Bhd [2015] 4 ILJ 60, the Claimant was senior security guard who was found sleeping at time of duty. The Courts opined that “The claimant was a senior security leader and had a huge responsibility. The claimant was also instructed to supervise 13 security officers reporting to him along with other employees at the respondent company. Even though the claimant had offered his service to respondent for eight years, the offence of sleeping while on duty was a serious offence. Clause 4.3(9) of the Employee Handbook stipulated that sleeping while on duty was punishable with dismissal”

Similarly, in the case of Mohamed Kamarul Bin Ismail v Rikevita (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. [2020] ILJU 125, the Claimant who was a Machine Operator was found to be sleeping on several occasions at the Surau which was meant to be used as a place for worship for Muslim employees. The Courts were of view that “the Claimant being a Production Leader had many subordinates below him and his act of sleeping during working hours sets a band example to them….  Despite being advised, the Claimant had acted irresponsibly by his misconduct.”

The Supreme Court has held that the dismissal of an employee found sleeping during working hours will be justified.” Was mentioned in the case of Bharat Forge Co Ltd v. Uttam Manohar Nekate [2005] ILR 210 (Supreme Court).

Whilst sleeping is a misconduct, it should be levelled against their responsibilities and the number of occurrences. If the sleeping was a one-off incident with repercussions being minimal, a light verbal chat and/or warning should be sufficient. It may be suggested but if there is repetition of sleeping at the workplace then the Company will need to take a stronger disciplinary action.

In conclusion, employers are under a duty to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of the working area and employers are also advised to take appropriate disciplinary actions when dealing with employees guilty of sleeping during working hours. 

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