Uganda: COVID-19 - Government Moves to Protect Workers Rights

The Labour ministry has asked all employers to submit labour returns and statistics about their employees, a move to evaluate and project effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy.

In a March 30 letter addressed to employers, the ministry told companies to submit the details with immediate effect.

"In accordance with Section 19 of the Employment Act, 2006, the ministry requires all employers to submit labour returns and statistics on the number of employees, the rates of remuneration by category and any other condition affecting their employment," the letter read in parts.

The letter signed by the Permanent Secretary, Mr James Ebitu, asked employers to provide details of each employee.

Employers should include name, designation, monthly salary and national ID number of all the workers who have or are likely to be affected by the pandemic.

Mr Ebitu yesterday said this is a legal requirement and every company should make the submission.

"It is a legal requirement for each company to provide the information. As it is now, they should update it. We have not put a time frame because we know some people have hardship getting computers because of the lockdown," he said.

The information should be sent to or to the Office of the Commissioner for Labour, Industrial Relations and Productivity.

Mr Ebitu said the ministry will give feedback to employees through their labour unions.

Earlier, Mr Ebitu told Saturday Monitor that most of the 22 million workforce the country has was largely unprepared to face the pandemic. Citing groups like teachers, the permanent secretary said the whole idea of working from home was going to have a big effect on the country's economy.

"We don't have a clear data as yet but in my opinion, less than 10 per cent of Ugandans [2.2m people] can work from home," Mr Ebitu said.

Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana, the State minister for Labour, said the ministry was not going to allow employers to use the coronavirus scare as a means of taking advantage of workers.

"We are coming up with a policy that eliminates excuses of coronavirus as a reason to terminate an employee without going through normal procedure. Employers must give us notice as the Ministry of Labour, and we will examine the reasons and we agree on the terms," he said.

Labour effects globally

According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on the global world of work, effects will be far-reaching, pushing millions of people into unemployment.

"Based on different scenarios for the impact of Covid-19 on global GDP growth, estimates indicate a rise in global unemployment of between 5.3 million ("low" scenario) and 24.7 million ("high" scenario) from a base level of 188 million in 2019," the information from ILO website reads.

"Underemployment is also expected to increase on a large scale, as the economic consequences of the virus outbreak translate into reductions in working hours and wages," ILO further revealed.

According to ILO, self-employment in developing countries, which often serves to cushion the impact of changes, may not do so this time because of restrictions on the movement of people and goods.

Media reports indicate that at least 10 million people in United States of America have so far lost their jobs.

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