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Labour Ministry Orders Companies To Send Workers Home To Prevent Spread Of Coronavirus

By Keefa Nuwahereza

The ministry of Labour, Gender and Social. Development has ordered all companies, factories and Nongovernmental Organisations (NGO) to terminate employment and send all their employees back home for a period of 32 Days, as a way of mitigating and preventing the spread of Coronavirus.

In the same vein, the Ministry has also suspended all labour externalisation and ordered companies operating the sector to close shop hence with,  until the monitoring period of 32 days elapses.

Copy of Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutana’s statement

The directives were issued in a statement by the State Minister for Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations, Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutana, which states thus;

Distinguished Members of the Press,We converge here this afternoon to brief you on the social economic effects of COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda and more specifically on the employment relationship.  

Further to the statement of HE the president of the republic of Uganda on18thMarch2020 on the COVID-19 and guidance from MoH on COVID-19 prevention measures, I would like to reiterate that the virus is dangerous and therefore the guidance given above should be adhered to by all workers and employers in Uganda.

Another part of the statement

World over the COVID-19 has been noted to behaving far-reaching impacts on labour market outcomes. Beyond the urgent concerns about the health of workers and their families,the virus and the subsequent economic shocks will impact the world of work across three key dimensions:

1)The quantity of jobs(both unemployment and underemployment);
2)The quality of work(e.g. wages and access to social protection);and
3)Effects on specific groups who are more vulnerable to adverse labour market outcomes (youth,women, children, persons with disabilities,unprotected workers,migrant workers among others).

Min. Rukutana’s statement

The effects of COVID-19 have already been felt in the tourism transport and industrial/manufacturing sectors. 

The effect on the other sectors is also anticipated. we know that employers are beginning to be constrained with matters related to maintenance of the workforce and labour productivity.

I would advise that COVID-19 pandemic should not disrupt the employment agreement, leave and overall employer-employee relationship.
Similarly, the threats related to layoff/termination of workers and reduction in productivity levels among others have been noted but all parties are advised to endeavor to follow the procedures enlisted in the Employment Act 2006 for any measures to be undertaken.

Such measures should be undertaken after consultation with the Ministry.
I hereby draw the attention of all employers,workers and the general

public to the following guidelines and considerations as we look forward to mitigating the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on employment in Uganda

i.The employers should retain the employees who are on monthly pay since termination at this stage may become costly in terms of payment of terminal benefits (i.e. severance pay;repatriation;payment in lieu of notice;payment in lieu of leave; compulsory compensation, any other damages);

ii.The engagement of the employees who are still under casual terms maybe reviewed and some of them can be advised to stay home;
iii.Employees should be encouraged to take pending annual leave and or leave without pay upon agreement with employers;

iv. In case of unionized workers,the parties should explore the provisions in the Collective Bargaining Agreement in case layoffs and redundancies become the best option (while observing requirements under Section 40(3)(a) and Section 84 of the Employment Act 2006);
v. Employers should provide training of workers on preventive measures for COVID-19, provide personnel Protective equipment and treatment of affected workers inline with part III of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2006;

vi. We have henceforth suspended labour externalisation for 32days from 18th March 2020.
The countries of focus are;

United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia,Qatar, Jordan, Somalia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan and Iraq.
vii.Meanwhile,all labour migrant workers returning from the high risk countries shall be subjected to terms and conditions set by the Ministry of Health i.e.mandatory quarantine for14 days;
viii.In the meantime,our ministry will continue to perform other assignments required to the externalization,although no one will be cleared for travel.
ix.During the period of the suspension of externalization,we will closely monitor the situation in liaison with the embassies of the destination countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,as well as our diplomatic representation abroad.

Should layoff of employees not be avoided,the the following procedures shall be applied:
i.All affected employees should be given notice in accordance with provision’s under Sections 58 and 81of the Employment Act 2006;
ii.The processes should have a humane face and clearly written and signed agreement between parties and time frame;
iii.Workers should be prepared or counseled prior to termination or during the period of notice,including those that have been affected by the pandemic;

iv. Any temporary layoff should not break the continuous service of an employee as required by Section 84 of the Employment Act2006;
v.There should be commitment that workers should be re-engaged when the work normalizes;and
vi. Terminal benefits that accrue should be paid when an employer decides to terminate employment relationship, unless otherwise agreed

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