The law covering the employment of persons in Vanuatu is the Employment Act [CAP 160]. A copy can either be found on the Paclii website or else with the Department of Labour. This law was passed to protect the rights of all workers in Vanuatu as it relates to their contracts of employment and all matters connected with that contract. This next series of articles will deal with worker’s rights, rights of employers and other related issues. If there are specific topics you wish us to write about on this topic please email us at the address below.
Types of Workers
There are two types of workers; they are employees and self-employed. The law and these articles deal with only employees, that is, persons who are employed by an individual or a company or business.
Employer to inform employees
While it is not required by the law, it is always a good idea for an employer to keep a copy of the law in a place that his employees can easily access it.
Why a written contract?
It is always best that when anyone employs a worker, they give them a written contract of employment. This helps if disagreements arise later on as it will be easier for a court or mediator to iron out conflicts. This is not to say that a contract cannot be verbal and still valid, because it is.
A written contract must provide for all the conditions of employment for the employee. A written contract cannot offer a worker less than the basic conditions stated in the law. Your employer can offer more than, or better than the basic conditions, but never less. If your employer does not give you a written contract then you are automatically provided for under the law.
So, what are these basic conditions?
- You are entitled to be paid for the period of time which you work.
- You cannot be paid less than the minimum wage of VT200 per hour.
- Working Environment
- You must be provided with a clean working environment in which to work, if you work in a building. This includes proper ventilation and lighting, a bathroom, a place to eat and enough drinking water.
- Provision of safe working conditions or for any unsafe working conditions to be fixed.
- Provision of First Aid such as medicines, dressings, etc at the place of work.
- Hours of Work
- You are not to work more than 8 hours a day or 44 hours a week or 6 days a week. These hours do not include lunch and tea break. There are exceptions to this rule set out in the law.
- You are entitled to a 1-hour lunch break and 2 tea breaks of 10 minutes each or 1 tea break of 20 minutes.
- You are not to be made to work on public holidays or Sundays without your agreement. The exception to this rule would be persons who work in the tourist industry, entertainment such as the cinema, bars, the media, utility companies, airport staff, etc.
- You are allowed a day of rest of 24 hours. This day would normally be a Sunday but another day can be agreed between the employer and employee.
- Overtime pay for work carried out outside the normal working hours. If working on a public holiday or Sundays then you are to be paid 1 ½ times the normal hourly rate. If, during a normal working day you work beyond the normal hours then you are to be paid, for the first 4 hours 1 ¼ times the normal hourly rate and for every hour after that 1 ½ times the normal hourly rate. If you are required to work at night, between 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. (other than as a watchman) then you are paid 1 ¾ times the normal hourly rate.
- Annual leave once you have been employed for a minimum of 1 year up till 6 years, 1.25 working days for each month you have worked. The law also provides for the amount of leave if you have been working for 7 years up till 30 years. You are to be paid in full for that time.
- Sick leave of 21 days if you have been working for at least 6 months for which you are to be paid.
- Maternity Leave
- Maternity leave of 12 weeks for which you are to be paid at least 66% of your salary.
- Women employees are able to nurse their babies for one hour twice a day till the baby is 2 years old.
- Women employees are not to be dismissed while on maternity leave or on long sick leave due to pregnancy or after pregnancy. Such sick leave should not exceed 3 weeks.
- Entitled to be given notice if contract to be terminated. If you have been employed for at least 3 years then 3 months’ notice. For less than 3 years, if you are paid every 14 days then notice of 14 days.
- Reasonable time off during the notice period to seek other employment such as for interviews. There is to be no deduction of your wages during this time.
- Entitlement to a certificate of employment verifying your period of employment.
- Severance allowance (this will be discussed in another article).
- The right, when your contract is ended or terminated for your employer to pay to send you back to your place of residence, provided you work more than 50 kilometres from your home and your employer hired you from your place of residence.
DISCLAIMER – This is a legal column to provide basic information on the law and court procedure. It is not to be used as a substitute for legal advice but to be used only as a starting point in understanding what you might need and what you might need to do.