The labour ministry has warned employers who might force their staff to take unpaid leave during the mandatory 21-day coronavirus lockdown that the practice is illegal and unacceptable.
Government has imposed a lockdown in Windhoek, Rehoboth and Okahandja as well as Erongo region starting tomorrow in order to curb the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Labour ministry executive director Bro-Mathew Shinguandja yesterday advised employers not to force staff to take unpaid leave during the crisis.
Shinguadja also urged employers across all sectors to ensure that all employees are fully remunerated for March and April, adding that should the crisis persist, further arrangements would be put in place through genuine consultations.
“It has been noted that some employers are forcing their employees to take annual leave or be on unpaid leave. This practice should be avoided at all cost and if any kind of leave is to be taken, it should be mutually agreed. Forced unpaid leave is illegal and hence unacceptable,” Shinguadja said in a statement.
Furthermore, the executive director reminded employees and employers to ensure maximum compliance with precautionary measures at the workplace as set out by the ministry as well as those of the ministry of health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in order to help combat Covid-19.
Meanwhile, in its 26-page report on coronavirus, Cirrus Capital in collaboration with Economic Association of Namibia (EAN) warned that if the cost of business interruptions presented by the virus are carried by the employer alone, mass retrenchments can be expected.
“In order to avoid retrenchments and to ensure that household incomes are not lost completely if company revenues collapse, flexibility in employment conditions is required,” the report said.
During periods of severe disruption, the reports says, it is recommended that employers and employees temporarily negotiate an up to 50% reduction in wages, rather than retrenching.
Thus, household incomes remain somewhat protected, and incomes should recover quickly when the threat has passed, as opposed to creating long-term unemployment.
Furthermore, the report says in order to cushion the blow from reduced wages for lower income earners, PAYE payments for those earning below the 28% bracket should be suspended for the current tax year.
“Thus, while incomes may drop as a result of temporarily lower wages, the blow will be cushioned by increased take-home pay as a percent of gross income. Higher income earners would still be expected to pay tax as normal,” it reads.