Rwanda: Labour - Ministry Pushes for Compliance With New Law

16 January 2020

The Ministry of Public Service and Labour has embarked on a campaign to sensitise employers countrywide to comply with the provisions of the new labour law.

The legislation, published in the Official Gazette in August 2018, among other things, seeks to address matters of employees particularly in the informal sector that barely received attention previously.

Chief Labour Inspector Javan Kalima Nkundabakura said the ministry was working closely with districts - through labour inspectors - to raise awareness and compliance with regard to the new law. Shroud

Public Service and Labour minister Fanfan Kayirwangwa Rwanyindo has been meeting with employers both in City of Kigali and across provinces, he told The New Times this week.

"Since the new law was gazetted, we have had four such meetings. In September, we were in Northern Province, after which he held another meeting in Kigali city, then Eastern Province, and Southern Province," he said. "The meetings continue and at the beginning of February we will be back to Eastern Province."

Previously, the labour law was limited on matters prevailing in the informal sector - covering only such issues as social security, trade union organisations, and health and safety at workplace.

However, the new labour law is broader covering such aspects as the minimum wage, the right to leave, and protection against workplace discrimination. However, it does not set the minimum wage only stating that this will be catered for under a subsequent Order of the Minister in charge of labour.

Minimum age

Under the new law, the minimum age for admission to employment remains at 16 as it was in the repealed law but the new legislation allows for exception for a child aged between 13 and 15 - who is allowed to perform only light work in the context of apprenticeship.

An Order of the Minister in charge of labour shall establish the list of light works for the children in question. (Officials at the Ministry of Public Service and Labour said the ministerial orders on minimum wage and minimum age are still being developed nearly a year and a half after the enactment of the law).

Unlike the previous law which did not provide sanctions against employers who subjected children to prohibited forms of work, the new legislation stipulates that the culprit shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not more than five years, and a fine of not less than Rwf500, 000 and not more than Rwf5m, or one of the penalties.

Payment of salaries

To prevent cases of non-payment of wages for works done in the context of public or private contracts, Article 122 of the law provides that a successful bidder who sub-contracts a part of the tender to a third party is responsible for payment of employees' salaries in case the sub-contractor has not paid employees' salaries.

To ensure this, a successful bidder who is awarded a tender is not entitled to any payment without proving that they had paid the debt related to salaries of employees.

In case the contractor fails to pay employees' salaries, the procuring entity retains the amount equivalent to the unpaid salaries until the contractor proves that they had paid the employees.

However, should the payment not be effected by the successful bidder (contractor) in a period of 45 days, the procuring entity pays the concerned employees the salaries equivalent to the amount retained, according to the law.

Conclusion of employment contract

As was the case under the previous legal framework, article 11 of the new law provides that an employment can be for a fixed term or indefinite and it can be written or unwritten as it was in the repealed law.

However, while an unwritten contract was previously not exceeding six consecutive months under the repealed law, under the new law the duration of unwritten contract must not exceed 90 consecutive days.

Occupational accident

In Article 19 provides for compensation for employees who had occupational accidents or disease while not insured in social security, with the employee entitled to compensation equivalent to the social benefits they would have received from a social security body in Rwanda if the employer had contributed for them, including medical and related expenses.

Under the law, an employee cannot be dismissed as a result of an occupational accident unless a recognised doctor declares him or her unfit to resume service.

Suspension of employment

Article 20 of the new law provides that "an employer can suspend an employee in writing (for administrative investigation) in a period not exceeding 30 days without payment but the employee's salary is calculated and retained. If, after the investigation, the employee's innocence is proven, the employer is obliged to reinstate the employee and pay them their full salary.

Right to be reinstated

An employee dismissed for economic or technical reasons and whose dismissal does not last more than six months is entitled to being reinstated in employment without competition if they meet the profile required for the position which the employer seeks to fill.

Compensation notice

While the repealed law provided that a party wishing to terminate a contract without giving or respecting the period of notice compels the responsible party to pay the other party an allowance corresponding to the salary and other benefits from which the worker would have benefited, the new law stipulates different penalties.

"Damages cannot go below his/her three month salary, nor exceed the employee's six months' salary. However, if the employee has more than ten years of experience with the same employer, damages cannot exceed his or her nine month net salary," it reads in part.

The Deputy Secretary General of the Rwanda Workers' Trade Union Confederation (CESTRAR), Africain Biraboneye, welcomed the Government's efforts to ensure compliance with the new labour law.

He particularly urged employers in the informal sector to embrace the changes.

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