Employers, business houses and companies must ensure they comply with labour laws when considering laying off or terminating their workers.
Commissioner of Labour, Murielle Meltenoven, said Vanuatu, like other Pacific Island countries and countries across the world are already experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
Daily Post understands that businesses, mostly, resorts and hotels have closed their doors due to the ban on arrival of tourists into the countries.
There are also reports of companies whose business depend on people coming in and out of the country were affected.
But Commissioner Meltenoven said employers are not encouraged to apply permanent or mass termination of employment to their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic threat as this crisis is considered as a temporary situation.
Termination will only be applicable if the business houses or companies are facing financial constraints, and are able to prove that there are reduction revenue collection and income, that they cannot sustain their business during this critical time as a result will enable them to lay off their staff.
Termination should always be regarded as the last option if the company is really facing financial constraints to retain its employers /staff and the level of business activity is very low and that there is no other option to consider, then the Employer can consider terminating its employees/staff.
In terminating the Employees/staff, employers are advised to compensate all lawful benefits to their employees in terms of severance entitlements, notice periods and accrued leave payout.
Companies which are considering to carry out a mass termination for their staff must notify the Office of the Commissioner in pursuant to Employment Act, Section 67.
“67. Duty of employer to notify Commissioner of certain redundancies
(1) Any employer proposing to dismiss as redundant ten or more employees at 1 establishment within a period of 30 days or less shall notify the Commissioner in writing of his proposal at least 30 days before the first of those dismissals is proposed to take place.
(2) At any time after being notified under subsection (1) the Commissioner may by written notice, require the employer to give him such further information as may be specified in that notice.
(3) If in any case there are any special circumstances rendering it not reasonably practicable to comply with the requirements of this section, the employer shall take such steps towards compliance with such requirements as are reasonably practicable in those circumstances.”
On the other hand, business house companies and employers are encouraged to put in place recovery plan on how they can re-engage those terminated employees once the country overcome COVID-19 crisis.
Companies must also provide support and assistance to the Government in recovery stage to make sure the terminated employees are re-engaged in their employment once the COVID-19 pandemic threat passes.