Last year the government started to take seriously the 1% Positive Action by People with Disabilities (OKU).
This policy has already been set in the past, but its enforcement is weak as there are no penalties for not practicing, Hannah Yeoh said in an interview with the Malay Post.
"Now we're putting the 1% (OKU employment) under the KPIs of the secretary general of each ministry … which means the secretary general now has to make sure they hire OKUs," she said.
However, the government has a long way to go to make its attitudes more inclusive.
We can wait for that change to happen, but in the meantime we already have smaller players doing just that.
STAND, a Malaysian social enterprise, is one of the many that are making that difference.
Help for young adults with disabilities breaking the market
STAND was founded with the aim of employing young adults with disabilities and providing them with a decent salary.
It was founded in 2011 by Pastor Lee Hock Cheng and his wife Wai Sze in the Full Gospel Assembly Church.
The workers with disabilities at the time only packed napkins, sugar and sauce for KFC and straws for Vitagen. From these jobs they earned only RM 45-100 per month for 6 years.
In 2017, the pastor and wife duo realized that they could do more for workers with disabilities, which is why Persatuan STAND was registered as a social enterprise.
When Sarjit Singh joined them in 2018 as Deputy Chairman, he helped set up the kitchen organization and advised the team.
The Stand Pie Me team / Photo credit: Stand Pie Me
In July 2020 he took over as chairman of STAND.
He came from the F&B sector and has worked in hotels and cafes. Before that he was a steward at an airline.
"I have always had an interest in doing something for this area of society because my son is dyslexic. My wife and I have spent a lot of time finding a place for treatment and a school where he can finish his studies" Sarjit told the Vulcan Post.
“We are challenged to bring this group of young people into the next phase. We believe they can be developed and trained to do more than they are currently doing. We want to strengthen their self-confidence, their dignity and the recognition of their potential as a contribution to society. "
Sarjit Singh, Chairman of STAND
Stand by those who need them
Stand Pie Me is an extension of their social enterprise. It's a bakery that makes and sells fresh cakes.
Most of their staff are currently young adults who are autistic and slow-learning, and whom they come into contact with through word of mouth.
Young adults with disabilities are often bullied in their workplaces, so Stand Pie Me wanted to create an inclusive and safe workplace for them.
A day at work / Photo credit: Stand Pie Me
There you will find people aged 17 and over and 50 and over.
Potential employees go through a two-month trial period. Their confirmation of the job is based on whether or not they can get along with colleagues and deal with work stress.
Sarjit explained why they make cakes in particular: “Cakes are made in an order to make it easier for them to follow and learn making techniques, as everything is measured accordingly. There is no such thing as agak-agak! "
Growth opportunities and monthly salary for their employees
In addition to baking, their employees are also trained in cooking, sweeping and mopping, among other things.
Work and Learn New Skills / Image Credit: Stand Pie Me
As for their growth opportunities, it seems that most of the time it is just a matter of training them to be more practical at different bakery operations.
The biggest challenge is the pace of your work. You cannot push your employees to work faster because it is difficult for them to adjust to a new routine.
Which makes sense, why their chances of growth extend to simple things like wiping and washing up.
They could get some of their employees to adjust to new routines, but in general they had to educate everyone and follow the new routines and individual roles closely to make sure they were doing well.
"It takes a few days or sometimes a few weeks before they can adjust to a new attitude," said Sarjit.
All cakes are baked in the OUG Parklane bakery and follow a standard recipe. The quality control of the cakes is carried out by Sarjit himself together with two other colleagues.
Stand Pie Me has a lot for home schools and corporate events, but this service was suspended from March to June this year.
Some of their baked goods / Photo credit: Stand Pie Me
Since they don't have a retail store to sell these cakes, they mainly promote and sell them on Facebook and Instagram.
They started the business by selling them to their friends and family who remain loyal customers to this day.
In terms of pay, potential employees can expect a monthly salary of 500 to 700 RM for the time being, including the government-provided welfare fund of 400 RM.
This range is actually below the minimum wage of RM 1,200 for the region, but Stand Pie Me hopes to earn a minimum wage of RM 800-1000 per month in the future.
Hopes for a more comprehensive norm in Malaysia
The aim of STAND is to branch out to all 13 states in Malaysia and to have kiosks in office buildings, schools and private facilities.
They work and play together / Photo credit: Stand Pie Me
They envision these kiosks as an inclusive space where the public can interact with their workers with disabilities to raise awareness about people with disabilities.
Sarjit wanted to get through that this year, but unfortunately he had to put it on hold with MCO.
They were also no longer able to take care of schools, so they worked around this stalled stream of income by starting delivery services for their cakes.
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Social enterprises like these give me hope that we can continue to transform the labor market for Malaysians with disabilities.
I hope that, like everyone else, they will get at least the minimum wage for all their work, but this will take time and structural change, which will be led by the government.
Hopefully, with the 20% incentive the government is promising employers to hire OKUs in the 2021 budget, we can see more changes next year.
- You can find out more about Stand Pie Me here.
- Here you can find out more about other social enterprises we've written about.
Selected image source: Sarjit Singh, Chairman of Stand Pie Me