Department of Trade Union Affairs Malaysia, formerly known as the Registry of Trade Unions was established in July 1946. The department is to enforce the Trade Unions Act 1940 which came into force in 1946. Under this enactment, each entity is required to apply to the Registrar of Trade Unions to be registered. Following the negotiations held between the Government, employers and trade unions, the Trade Unions Ordinance 1959 came into force June 1, 1959 to replace the Trade Unions Act 1940. Under the ordinance, all the trade unions are required to apply to the Registrar of Trade Unions to be registered.
After the formation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963, the Ordinance has been extended to the Sabah and Sarawak 25 March 1965 on 19 August 1965. The Ordinance was revised by the Commissioner for Law Revision in 1981 and was named as the Trade Unions Act 1959. The Act was amended in 1989 and, in consequence of the amendment, the title of the Registrar of Trade unions has been changed to the Director General of Trade unions to reflect the actual roles and responsibilities of the Director besides the registration of trade unions. Thus, the name of the Registry of Trade Unions has been changed to the Department of Trade Union Affairs.