As lawmakers debate the proposed Employment Bill, 2023, a number of them have called on the government, through the Ministry of Finance, to provide more funding to the Ministry of Labour for an effective enforcement of the new law.
The proposed bill seeks to consolidate and improve the law relating to labour and employment, to provide for the promotion of equal opportunity and elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation and to provide for other related matters.
The bill, when passed into law, will repeal and consolidate labour employment laws like Section 116 (1), Chapter 212 which deals with the Employer and the Employee's Act 1962, Chapter 213 -the Registration of the Employee's Act, 1947, Cap 214 -the African Laborer's Employment Act 1937, Cap 215- the Provision of Force Labour, Cap 216- the Recruitment of Workers Act 1941.
Also, Cap 217 -the Job Regulations, Cap 218- the Machinery (Safe Work and Inspections) Rules, Cap 219 -the Work's man Compensation, Cap 220-the Wages Board and Cap 221-the Trade Union, Cap 222 and deals with trade disputes and 223-the arbitration and inquiry all of the Industrial Relation (Amended ) Act 1974,will be repealed.
In his submission, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Alpha Timbo said the most valuable asset of any nation is its workforce and that they should be served well.
He said the country's employment laws over the years were not only obsolete and weak, but that their implementation processes have been seriously undermined.
He said old labour standards comprising rules and principles regarding the minimum standards recognized internationally for treating workers and employers have been violated.
He stated that labour standards are fundamental principles that protect basic human rights at the work place and as a result, the government thought it wise to note their importance and subsequently review them in order to be able to have legislations that will represent the current legalities.
He said the new law would get a database of workers, address the issue of contract workers, and leave entitlement including paternity and maternity (From 12 weeks to 14 weeks).
He also informed MPs that issues relating to terminal benefits or end-of-service benefits and labour clearance certificates and apprenticeships, volunteerism as well as workers with a disability, would be amicably addressed.
According to the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Segepor S. Thomas, when cases of such go to the court for remedy, they were sometimes referred to the ministry for redress, but Labour Officers support the employers against the employees, therefore the Minister should find ways to avoid such situations.
He said all of the labour issues going to court should be handled by the ministry amicably as a lot of Sierra Leoneans suffered in the hands of foreign employers.
He said the implementation of laws was poorly done even with the effort MPs make in passing laws that will help citizens.
Hon. Rolan F. Kargbo said the document speaks volume as compared to what it used to be, adding that workers have suffered for far too long in the hands of employers.
He said the employment world within Sierra Leone is that the employers have done more harm than good to workers, and that human rights, conditions of service, condition at the work place, end of service payment, among others, have been left at the hands of the employers to handle. He said such has to be properly managed with the enactment of the new bill.
He said if the ministry must do it work effectively, they need more funding to enhance enforcement on defaulting employers.
Hon. Ishmael Sama Sandy said a lot of issues relating to the labour landscape were addressed in the new bill in tandem with the International labour laws.
He said it was worrisome to note that gatekeepers, medical doctors, painters, cleaners, among other work related, are now been handled by expatriates especially with institutions that are owned by foreigners in the country.
Hon. Bash Kamara said some of the laws really need to be repealed considering their importance. He said the new law if enacted, will benefit both the employees and the employers and also a standard will be set.
Hon. Joseph William Lamin said some children below the age of 18 years are being hired to work by certain institutions and at the end given pittance, therefore the ministry should be able to address those situations once the law is enacted