Fourth consultative session chaired by President Danny Faure with key representatives of government and private sector |03 June 2020
New GOP framework discussed
A new gainful occupation permit framework related to COVID-19, strategies required to be in place beyond July 1 and proposals for the way forward for national programmes and employment schemes were some of the points discussed during yesterday’s fourth consultative session.
President Danny Faure chaired the session with key representatives of government and private sector at State House.
The meeting was a follow-up of previous consultative sessions held between the respective sectors regarding the economic response to COVID-19.
The meeting was centered on feedback from the Central Bank of Seychelles and Ministry of Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning regarding points raised last Tuesday, and the presentation of a new gainful occupation permit (GOP) framework related to COVID-19 by the Ministry of Employment, Immigration and Civil Status.
The members also discussed strategies required to be in place beyond July 1 and proposals for the way forward for national programmes and employment schemes. The implementation of the Financial Assistance for Job Retention programme (FA4JR) was also reviewed.
Various decisions were made and approved during that meeting. After the meeting, Employment, Immigration and Civil Status Minister Myriam Telemaque, employment principal secretary Jules Baker, Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) chairman Oliver Bastienne, Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA) chairperson Sybille Cardon and the representative of the General Employer of Trade Union of Seychelles (GETUS), Tina Hoareau met with the press to give an update on the decisions taken.
Minister Telemaque gave a detailed explanation on all measures related to GOPs and expatriate workers.
1. Extension of GOPs
a) If an employer decides not to renew the GOP of its non-Seychellois worker, an extension of the GOP will be provided for up to three months, to legalise status of the worker in the country (giving ample time for repatriation after re-opening of the international airport).
b) The employer must provide food and shelter for the worker.
c) Extension of the GOP will be free of charge due to force majeure from July 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 and medical certificate for the worker in the country will not be required.
d) If the employer wishes to continue to use the services of the non-Seychellois worker, it should be done under a contract of employment and all terms and conditions under employment and other applicable laws shall apply.
e) GOP extension will be applicable only until repatriation of the worker between the period of July 1 and December 31, 2020. Further extension of one month will be evaluated on a case by case basis, if border closure.
f) The extension application is to be done directly with the immigration department.
2. Renewal of GOPs
a) Employers who would like to renew GOPs of its workers currently in the country or overseas, may apply directly to the immigration department, on condition that the post is not on the localisation plan and the organisation is within its quota. If companies are operating above the quota, the immigration department shall refer the businesses to the employment department to follow the normal procedure to test the labour market.
b) No labour market test is required until December 2020 for organisations below quota.
c) All immigration fees will be applicable.
d) Immigration department will accept applications with GOP expiring within six weeks and less
e) Government to meet with private sector to revisit the conditions early August 2020 after proper assessment of the local labour market.
3. Revalidation of GOPs
a) Employers who have laid-off non-Seychellois workers in the country or overseas, due to COVID-19 and wish to revalidate the GOPs to cover unused period spent away from work on lay-off, may do so between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
b) Application is to be submitted directly to immigration department.
c) GOPs must be valid. No request for revalidation will be considered as from July 1, 2021.
d) It must be noted that employers who wish to lay-off workers on GOP will require approval from the employment department and the timeframe of the lay-off will be determined by the competent officer but shall not be more than six months.
e) An employer shall notify the employment department of his intention after the specified period of the lay-off as to whether the lay-off will be prolonged, the business will be partially or wholly operational or apply for redundancy.
4. Redundancy of non-Seychellois workers
Employers who have made redundant non-Seychellois workers and wish to re-employ the same workers, may submit a new application to employment department by following the normal procedure of labour market test. An application to recruit the same non-Seychellois worker may not be submitted six months before the redundancy approval has elapsed.
5. Non-Seychellois workers on existing GOP and out of the country due to border closure
a) These employers must write to employment department by June 30, 2020 to inform which of the non-Seychellois workers will be maintained in their organisation, or needs to return only for purpose of collecting their personal belongings.
b) Permission to return to Seychelles will be granted by the ministry based on guidelines from the Public Health Authority.
6. Change of employers by non-Seychellois workers
Employers wishing to move their non-Seychellois workers within their different businesses or with another employer will be allowed to do so from July 1 until December 31, 2020 on the condition that:
a) The second employer shall go through the normal process of testing the labour market and shall provide feedback to the employment department on the applications and process of interviews.
b) If no Seychellois is available the second employer may apply to the employment department to recruit a non-Seychellois worker after having agreed with the first employer.
c) Conditions of the move is agreed in writing by the two employers and agreement is attached with application when submitting to the employment department.
d) The worker also gives his or her consent to the change of employer in writing and agreement is attached with application.
e) The non-Seychellois is moved into identical post with same qualification and experience.
f) The non-Seychellois remains the responsibility of the first employer until the second employer is issued with a GOP for the non-Seychellois worker.
g) The new employer shall provide proof of accommodation. In the case of construction and security services, the new employer shall provide proof of project or contract.
h) First employer must pay all legal benefits to the non-Seychellois worker prior to moving to second employer.
i) The new employer shall submit a new contract of employment to the employment department for attestation.
a) If a non-Seychellois worker is made redundant and the post features on the localisation plan, the local understudy shall take up the position if ready and still available.
b) It was recommended for discussion on challenges of localisation to continue in a forum.
8. Certificate of Entitlement
Certificate of Entitlement (COE) to be maintained based on conditions which will be further discussed between the Ministry of Employment, Immigration and Civil Status and Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA).
Employment (Amendment) Act 2020,
PS Baker talked about the Employment (Amendment) Act 2020 which was assented to by President Faure on June 1 and gazetted yesterday. “Three new sections have been proposed. The Amendment to the Employment Act regulates the deferment of payment, and reduction of the wages of a worker pending the termination of the government programme for salary support to workers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Amendment to the Employment Act also regulates the deferment of payment, and reduction of the wages of a worker during the period of government programme for salary support to workers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Amendment also restricts the lay-off or redundancy of Seychellois workers in certain circumstances. It also provides that any approval given by a competent officer to temporary lay off a Seychellois worker or terminate the employment of a Seychellois worker on grounds of redundancy in certain circumstances shall not take effect prior to July 1, 2020.”
SCCI chairperson Oliver Bastienne: “Positive deliberations”
Mr Bastienne said that “with regards to the discussions we had this morning at State House, we have all agreed on the importance of having foreign workers in our organisations. I believe the deliberations have been extremely positive and the GOP framework that has been formalised by us in collaboration with the government is fair and balanced. We had solid deliberations in regard to the importance of developing, skilling and training of Seychellois workforce as we move forward. We also talked about how to ensure various programmes and schemes in place in regards to unemployment. We are still in discussions with that and we hope that we can get more clarity in the coming days. The second component we discussed was about the Central Bank of Seychelles’ relief scheme. From our perspective we shared our views and we are still in discussion with the Bankers Association and it is very important that all actors understand each other and we hope next week we can get more concrete announcement. Under this tripartite, we put a proposal in regards to the micro and small enterprise, especially those who have limitations and cannot access these funds. We have to really isolate and look at them differently. We also talked about the FA4JR and the survey did by the SCCI and how we are working with the committee to present our findings. We are also proposing that the committee meets with the different business associations as there might be different issues with the different businesses.”
GETUSrepresentative Tina Hoareau: “Historic moment in Seychelles”
“GETUS would like to thank the government for listening to our recommendations that we have been discussing for the last three weeks. It has been a wonderful collaboration and we appreciate that our points have been taken into consideration in the new GOP framework. COVID-19 should not be looked at negatively and we have to find the positivity in that. This created a new forum/opportunity for private sector, civil society and the government to work together and move forward. We looked at the issues together and worked on them together to find solutions. The Employment Act also reflects the views of the private sector. Regarding the assistance from the FA4JR, we still find some issues but it is work in progress and we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. We can say that this is a historic moment in Seychelles where finally the tripartite is working shoulder to shoulder.”
SHTA chairperson Sybille Cardon: “We would like to see the same procedure for major decisions”
“This, I think, is the first time we are all working together and we would like to see the same procedures for upcoming issues when the government needs to take decisions. Tourism is the main industry in the country and in order for the hotels and guest houses to have a better vision of the future they need to know what will happen with their expats and to make plan accordingly when we will bounce back. Next week, we will have another meeting with the President to see what to do with staff who will be laid off or made redundant and how we can assist with training. It is not something that we want to see, but it is important for some businesses to come up with campaigns to make use of the personnel. We also have to talk about the re-opening of our borders. I know this is a sensitive subject, but we have to realise that tourism is a major component of the workforce in Seychelles. We have to start establishing procedures together with the department of health in order to prepare ourselves.”
Present for the meeting at State House yesterday morning were Employment, Immigration and Civil Status Minister Telemaque, Attorney General Frank Ally, employment principal secretary Jules Baker, employment special advisor Veronique Bresson, employment chief policy analyst Susan Morel, Seychelles’ Federation of Workers’ Union (SFWU) secretary general Antoine Robinson, General Employer of Trade Union of Seychelles (GETUS) executive secretary Tina Hoarau, SHTA chairperson Sybille Cardon, SHTA vice-chairperson Allen Mason, SCCI chairperson Oliver Bastienne, SCCI representative Maria Stevens, Praslin Business Association representative Paul Rouillon, and La Digue Business Association representative Jose St Ange.
The next consultative session will be held next Tuesday June 9, 2020.