Widow gets Socso pension in landmark ruling

KUALA LUMPUR: For the first time in Malaysian legal history, a woman whose marriage was not registered under civil law has been recognised as the surviving widow by the court and deemed entitled to Socso pension.

High Court judge Justice Su Geok Yiam ruled that odd-job worker Lam Kun Tai, 51, is entitled to the Social Security Organisation’s survivors pension.

She ruled that Lam fell under the category of dependant as the widow of her late common law husband Leow Teng Song. Leow was a supervisor who passed away on Nov 16, 2015.

Yesterday, Justice Su dismissed an appeal by the director-general of Socso who appealed against the decision of the Employees’ Social Security Appellate Board’s chairman which decided that Lam was entitled to the pension.

Justice Su also awarded RM5,000 in costs to Lam.

Lam was married to Leow by way of a Chinese customary marriage at a temple in Kepong in 1991. They were married for 24 years until he died.

The mother of four children, aged between 15 and 21, smiled and said she felt very happy.

I only earn about RM60 each time I help somebody at wedding and birthday functions.

The money will reduce my burden as I am not educated enough to find a better job to support my children, she added.

Lam’s counsel G. Manimegalai, who is from the Bar Council’s Legal Aid Centre here, said it was a victory.

This is the first of its kind in Socso matters pertaining to insurance claims where the customary marriage is recognised, she said.

Manimegalai said that the ruling means that even if the marriage is not registered under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, my client is entitled to the survivors’ pension as the widow of her deceased husband.

Lam and her children made a claim for survivors pension under the Employees Social Security Act (Essa) 1969 but the D-G of Socso only approved the children’s claims.

The pension payments for the children will be made to them until they turn 21. The eldest son, who is disabled, is already 21 but is dependent on his mother for support.

Socso’s lawyer Diba Natalia Ishak said Socso would now have to calculate the amount that Lam is entitled to.

Source: Malaysian Trades Union Congress