Landmark Changes to Mauritius Labor Law

To contain the spread of COVID-19 in Mauritius, the government extended the sanitary curfew until April 15, 2020. Announced by the Prime Minister in a press conference on March 30, employers and employees all over the world were forced to deal with government-mandated shutdowns, flexible arrangements, and economic constraints.
During this time, there were some landmark changes to the Mauritius labor law:

Annual Leave
The law says that if an employer and worker are unable to decide when leave should be taken, half the leave needs to be determined by the employer and the other half by the worker. During the pandemic, it has been debated whether employers can force their workers to take their local leave days during the government-mandated shutdowns. As the law states, the employer is allowed to decide one half of the employee’s leave, so nothing would technically stop them from asking their worker to take local leave during this period.

Working Hours and Salary
Employers are generally not allowed to reduce the working hours and salaries of their employees. However, the law states that in special circumstances where the employer needs a worker to work for a (temporarily) shorter period of time than specified in a contract, they are allowed to keep the employee at a reduced remuneration. However, this change needs to be approved by the supervising officer of the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and

Employment in Mauritius
It should be noted that during the time the employee is told to work for a shorter period of time for a reduced remuneration, he/she has the right to seek other work or accept work from another employer.

Going to Work
The curfew order has resulted in a law where an employer can ask their employee to come to work only for “strictly essential minimum services.” In case of a work access permit, the employer can send an application to the Commissioner of Police to ensure that statutory health and safety obligations are being followed.  In an update by the Ministry of Labor, employees have been urged to attend work if there is a valid work access permit in place and if all standard operating procedures are being followed. If employees fail to comply, they may face consequences.

Redundancy Procedure
If an employer needs to lay off workers during the pandemic, the statutory process laid down in the Workers’ Rights Act 2019 must be followed.  The employer must demonstrate valid and reasonable justifications for the cause of redundancy. If the employee and employer cannot agree on a settlement, the employer must file an application with the Redundancy Board before laying off the employee.

Full Salary or Reduced Salary
Regardless of whether an employee is working during the curfew or not, employers are legally bound to pay full, basic salaries to their workers. However, employers are allowed to deduct allowances of travel expenses, for example, if the employee is not coming to work or is working from home.

In these exceptional circumstances, in order to mitigate potential conflict between employers and employees, the law has laid down clear-cut guidance and procedures to help everyone navigate these trying times.

To learn more about managing your workforce in Mauritius, click here

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