In continuation of our series on the law of employment in Vanuatu we will reflect on remuneration under the Employment Act. This area of the law is contained under Part 5, Sections 16 to 21.
Remuneration is any money that you are paid for any work done or any service offered by you.
How are you paid?
You are to be paid in legal tender, that is, cash, or else you can be paid by cheque if this would be reasonable in the circumstances or with your consent. Your employer may even decide to transfer your wages directly to your bank account if you agree.
You can also be paid allowances together with your wages. Those allowances do not have to be in cash but can take the form of goods or other form. Such an arrangement is likely to occur in industries or occupations where it is customary or desirable to be paid an allowance in that form, e.g., if you are a grounds keeper your employer may provide you with a house and meals or if you work with a telecommunication or utility company you might receive additional payment in the form of stocks which carry a certain value.
The law states that such payments must be approved by the Labour Officer in writing, and before the approval is given, he must be satisfied that:
- These allowances are appropriate for the personal use and benefit of the employee and his family;
- The value of this allowance is fair and reasonable.
What you cannot receive as payment
Payment either in full or in part in the form of alcohol or drugs that can harm your physical or mental health is illegal.
Where you are to be paid
If you are paid in cash, then you are to be paid on working days only, either at your place of work or near where you work or else you may be paid anywhere else that has been agreed between you and your employer.
Your employer cannot choose to pay you in a place where people meet to drink alcohol or other similar places, or in shops or stores, or places of amusement e.g. the cinema. Only persons who work in these places can be paid there.
When you are to be paid
You must be paid no later than 8 days after your wages become due. If you are paid by the hour or by the day of the week, your wages are to be paid every 14 days and should not exceed 15 days. Persons who do not get paid by the hour or the week are paid monthly.
If you are paid every 14 days and you also receive allowances or other payments in addition to your wages those may be paid only once a month. If you and your employer agree then the allowances can be paid every 14 days.
Who does the above not apply to?
The above does not apply to a person who does not usually live in Vanuatu once they were hired in another country to work in Vanuatu.
Are you entitled to receipts or pay vouchers?
All payments made to an employee are to be recorded in a document by his employer. After each payment you are to initial that record as proof of payment. If you are unable to sign your name then you may rub your thumb in ink and mark the document.
Your employer must keep a copy of this record for at least 3 years in the event that the Labour Officer demands to see them.
If you request a payment voucher which will give details of how your wages were calculated your employer is bound to give it to you.
Can you lose your right to sue your employer?
Even though an employee accepts certain payments from his/her employer, whether during the period of his contract or after being terminated, the employee will not be said to have abandoned his right to an action in the court simply because he accepted the payment and may have even signed a document before his employer saying that he “received it in full and final settlement of any claim.”
BUT, if you are entitled to any payments owed by your employer, you must bring a case within 3 years from when those monies were due to be paid or else you will lose your right to do so forever.
Can my employer deduct money from my wages?
An employer cannot deduct any monies from your wages or have his employee agree to a deduction for the reason of any fine or of bad or negligent work or damage to the materials or other property of the employer.
BUT, a Labour Officer can give written approval for an employer to deduct wages for any loss or damage to materials or other property of the employer caused by the deliberate misconduct or negligence of the employee.
When deductions can be made
- A loan from your employer which is to be repaid from your wages.
- Purchase of materials, tools or implements by your employer for you, at your request, for use outside your work place.
- Provision of rental accommodation by your employer. A Labour Officer must approve a fair value of such rental before the deduction is made.
- Receipt of items on credit from your employer or for the costs of any food provided by the employer and prepared or consumed on his premises. The costs of these items or food must not be sold to you at a price higher than what he sells to the public.
- Deductions for any membership fees or other dues requested by you to be paid to a Trade Union.
- Any order of the court ordering your employer to make the deduction, provided that such a deduction by the court must not exceed one-third of your total wages.
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.
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