By Armish Pal, AP Legal, Lawyers, Fiji
Redundancies are part of the modern day business and in Fiji it is subject to legislative oversight. Redundancies in Fiji are governed by the Employment Relations Act (“the Act”) which is also the country’s principle legislation on employment law. The statutory processes set out under the Act are relatively simple however employers have fallen foul on the requirements at times.
There are only 3 permissible grounds for redundancies, namely economic, structural and technological reasons. These are set out and defined in Section 107.
Once an employer has taken a decision to commence the redundancy process, the employer is required to provide a notice of at least 30 days to all the employees who may be affected, their representatives as well as the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Labour.
This notice must specify the reasons for the redundancies, the number and categories of employees affected as well as the period during which the redundancies are expected to place.
After the notice has been issued, the employer is then required to allow an opportunity to the employees and its representatives to hold consultations with the employer with the aim of reducing the impact of redundancies on the employees. At this stage negotiations on packages, redeployment, retraining and such matters are considered although there is no actual legal obligation on the part of the employer to agree to any matter. It is recommended that officials from the Ministry of Labour be invited to observe such consultation process.
At the end of the notice period and subject to any agreements reached between the employer and the employees, the employer is entitled to terminate the employment of the employees. Under Section 108 of the Act, any employee made redundant is entitled to a minimum payment of 1 week’s wages for each completed year of service.
The employee is also entitled to be issued with a Certificate of Employment which must set out the period of employment, the positions held and the principle duties as required under Section 30(6) of the Act.
Although there is no obligation for further reporting, all employers are encourage to send to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour a report upon the completion of the redundancy procress setting out the number of employees affected, the number made redundant, measures taken to minimize the impact as well as packages paid out.