Lesotho's Updated Labour Act – Promoting Fair Labour Practices And Equitable Employment Relations In Line With Global Standards

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Lesotho has enacted the Labour Act, 2024 ("the Act"), which consolidates all labour and employment laws in the country. The Act came into force on 2 April 2024 and repeals the Labour Code Order, 1992 ("the Labour Code").
South Africa Employment and HR
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Lesotho has enacted the Labour Act, 2024 ("the Act"), which consolidates all labour and employment laws in the country. The Act came into force on 2 April 2024 and repeals the Labour Code Order, 1992 ("the Labour Code"). While it mirrors the Labour Code, it has also introduced several notable changes with the purpose of providing a comprehensive framework for regulating employment relations, promoting fair labour practices, and ensuring the welfare and rights of both employers and employees. The Act applies to employment relationships in the public and private sectors but does not apply to security agencies.

Key changes introduced by the Act:

  1. Working hours

The Act introduces the averaging of working hours per month to align with global trends and foster economic growth. This flexibility will enable employers to manage work pressure when it occurs. However, trade unions are against this provision, citing that it leads to an increase in ordinary working hours from 180 hours to 195 hours per month.

  1. Leave benefits

Under section 191 of the Act, maternity leave is extended from 12 weeks to 14 weeks (seven weeks before the expected date of birth and seven weeks after the birth of a child). The Act also extends a three-week maternity leave benefit to a worker who bears a stillborn child. The Act further provides for the following new leave benefits under the same section:

  • paternity leave (14 days);
  • family responsibility leave (if so advised by a medical doctor);
  • bonding leave for a worker that has adopted a child (14 days); and
  • bereavement leave for a worker who has lost an immediate family member (five days).
  1. Establishment of key institutions

The Act provides for the establishment of the following institutions:

  • The National Advisory Committee on Labour: The functions of the committee include advising the Minister of Labour and Employment on labour policy and any proposed legislation or matters affecting employment, industrial relations and working conditions.
  • The Wages and Conditions of Employment Advisory Board: The board is tasked with enquiring into the wages and conditions of employment of any worker in a workplace.
  • The Industrial Relations Council: The council operates as the governing body of the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution ("DDPR").
  • The DDPR: The role of the directorate is to resolve labour and employment-related disputes. The Act extends the jurisdiction of the DDPR to not only resolve labour disputes but to also resolve disputes involving unfair labour practices.
  • The Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court: The Labour Court has jurisdiction in respect of matters which are to be determined by the court in terms of labour laws or the provisions of the Act. The Labour Appeal Court has exclusive jurisdiction to determine appeals against final judgements and final orders of the Labour Court. The Act further empowers the Labour Court to make arbitral awards and settlement agreements into orders of the court for purposes of enforcement. This will assist the Labour Court with reducing backlogs.

The Act further introduces the establishment of bargaining councils for different sectors and tasks the DDPR with accrediting such bargaining councils. It allows for the government to be a party to a bargaining council if it is an employer in the related sector.

By aligning national laws on working conditions, wages, and dispute resolution mechanisms with global employment and labour standards, the Act aims to establish a balance between employer and employee rights. According to Zurayda Mayet, Director at Mayet & Associates, a Lesotho-based law firm, effective implementation of the Act has the potential to significantly improve the business environment in Lesotho by attracting more foreign investment as a result of the stability and fairness of the labour market; reducing the risk of labour disputes, strikes, and other disruptions; increasing productivity and efficiency in businesses; and meeting market expectations related to social responsibility and ethical standards.

*With appreciation for the contribution of Mayet & Associates to this ENSight.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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