Multi-sectoral dialogue to realize the unified employment law continues Print
Monday, 17 June 2019 11:36

The drafted provisions of the unified employment law mooted with multiple stakeholder participation are to be tabled before the National Labour Advisory Committee (NLAC) for deliberations soon.

The proposed unified employment law, as the Commissioner General of Labour, Ananda Wimalaweera told The Sunday Island, is to integrate multiple labour legislation into a single statute.

Among these statutes are the Wages Boards Ordinance, the Factories Ordinance, Shop and Office Employees Act, Maternity Benefit Ordinance and Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act. Once consensus is reached among all stakeholders concerned, including the Department of Labour, trade union representatives and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC), the document is expected to reach the Bill stage by next year, says the Labour Commissioner.

The whole exercise, as Wimalaweera pointed out, is a challenging endeavour, given the plethora of labour laws in the country; a good number which have become redundant in the changing world of work.

"The proposed law considers terms and conditions of employment these multiple statutes articulate and strives to do away with the discrepancies concerning definitions," Wimalaweera said, citing the varying definitions of ‘earnings’, ‘employee’ etc. these laws stipulate.

This has made the dealings of the Labour Department such as labour investigations cumbersome on one hand and on the other, legal literacy among employees too complicated to fathom, he says. "While some employees come under the purview of the Wages Board Ordinance, others come under the Shop and Office Act. There is also a segment which doesn’t come under either. This ambiguity has not only made our tasks double challenging but also discourages foreign direct investments."

The world is changing faster than ever before and so is the labour market. Beyond the traditional employer-employee relationship emerges new trends such as virtual jobs, work from home, etc. Yet our domestic law is unprepared to cater to these trends and as the Labour Commissioner pointed out, our labour market will be redundant if it doesn’t gear to changing paradigms.

"Today, more women seek flexible work arrangements to balance work and family and national borders are transcended in terms of the service sector. Legal framework should evolve to cater to these changes and help both businesses and employees grow", he said.

It is also learnt that the new unified law seeks to raise the minimum age of retirement to 60 for the public sector and thereby afford enhanced social security.

"Today, we have only 2.6 million of EPF entitled working population and the average entry point to the labour market is around 25 years. When the EPF is withdrawn at 55 on retirement, not only are the productive years of earning curtailed but it will also increase the fiscal burden of the government. Hence, the EPF fund needs to be expanded," remarked Wimalaweera.

A ‘compressed five-day week’ of 44 hours is also mooted giving employees the option of incorporating the Saturday half-day into this compressed week, he further said.

Remarking that it is imperative for the authorities to implement urgently required labour law reforms if the country is to keep pace with global trends, Director General of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC), Kanishka Weerasinghe said the delay or failure to do so can seriously hinder socio-economic progress of the country.

"It is for this reason that we welcome the initiative to bring about reforms and the EFC’s upcoming forum on this unified labour law, which will unfold on June 27 in form of a dialogue between the Commissioner General of Labour, EFC members and other interested parties, seeking to strengthen the dialogue in realizing this long felt need," he noted.


by Randima Attygalle 

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