As the country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic which is continuing to threaten job security of countless employees, Government and employers have agreed on a number of guidelines that should be followed in case an employee is to lose his/ her job.
The guidelines were reached on in a Tripartite meeting convened by the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development Hon Frank Tumwebaze which was attended by Government workers represented by National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU), Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions (COFTU) and employers represented by Federal of Uganda Employers (FUE) regarding effects of COVID 19 on employment including job security and possible mitigation measures.
Tumwebaze announced the layoff guidelines to journalists at Uganda Media Center on Tuesday as follows:
- Whereas employment relations are regulated by law, mitigating the effects of COVID 19 on employment relationships is more than legal matter given the circumstances. Therefore, Employers and workers are encouraged to find a win-win situation through dialogue as far as is reasonably practicable.
- Where possible, employees should be encouraged to work from home not only as a means of reducing overcrowding at the workplace and thereby increasing the risks of infection with COVID 19 but as a measure of cutting on overhead cost at workplace.
- Employees should be encouraged to take pending annual leave as one of the cost cutting measures as well as decongesting workplaces.
- Employers and employees are encouraged to negotiate/ renegotiate wages before considering layoffs or terminations.
- Employers are encouraged to the extent possible, not to terminate employees. This is because employers will require these employees when normal operations resume. In addition, termination of employees will occasion more costs to employers in form of payment of terminal benefits.
- Termination of employees should therefore be taken as a last resort after all the available softer options have been exhausted.
- Employers who despite the associated costs and lengthy procedures opt for termination should strictly adhere to the law (sections 58, 65 and 81 of Employment Act, 2006 as well as Regulation 44 (a) and (b) of Employment Regulations, 2011).
- Employers should ensure that the process of termination or layoff is done with a humane face. Workers should be counselled prior to termination/ layoff.
- Employers should try as much as possible to take care of the basic needs (eg food) for the workers they layoff as this will not only help them to stay connected to their good will and intention of the employers towards them in the difficult circumstances.
- Sectors not adversely affected by COVID 19 pandemic like manufacturing, food processing and others should not use the excuse of the pandemic to arbitrarily cut staff wages or layoff staff.
- The Ministry of Gender asked the COVID 19 National Task Force led Rt Hon Prime Minister to devise means of targeting and prioritizing the most vulnerable categories of workers who have been laid off or terminated, to benefit from food being distributed. The LCs should not discriminate casual workers by not regarding them as vulnerable.
- Employees who have running loans with financial institutions are encouraged to take advantage of the directive issued by Bank of Uganda to the financial institutions to reschedule loan payments.
- The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development will take keen interest in and will continue addressing on a case by case basis, complaints raised by the part-time workers and other workers who by the time of COVID 19 lockdown had no contracts and were sent home without payment of what was due to them as at the time of lockdown.
- In line with section 19 of Employment Act, 2006, all employers should provide returns and statistics on the number of workers whose employment relationships have been affected or are likely to be affected during COVID 19 pandemic. This information will particularly be useful for policy advice and planning.
- After the lockdown is fully lifted, the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development working with its partners will undertake Rapid Assessment on the effects of COVID 19 on labor, employment and productivity and consequently develop a labour market risk management plan in consultation with social partners.