The Chief Labour Officer at the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Eugene Narh Korletey, has entreated all business to consistently inform the Labour Office about all lay-offs, as it is an offence not to do so under the nation’s labour law.
The move is one of the means through which government is able to keep abreast with the unemployed numbers – then analyse the dynamics of the numbers and fashion policies to address it.
When the B&FT contacted the Chief Labour Officer on data of the number of people who had lost their jobs during the COVID-19 period, Mr. Korletey said: “We are working on getting the numbers. We will be finishing soon and they will be available. You can write a letter requesting them, and immediately they are ready they will be furnished to you”.
When asked how efficient the process has been so far, he said the Labour Office is doing its best to get the numbers for policy decisions; noting that it is the duty of every employer to submit redundancy numbers to the office, and it is an offence if any lay-offs are not reported to his office.
But the process needs to be facilitated with the submission of questionnaires for the companies to fill out, and it is however not clear if the Labour Office has the capability to send questionnaires soliciting redundancy information to all businesses.
Per the law, when an employer contemplates the introduction of major change in production, programme, organisation, structure or technology of an undertaking that is likely to entail termination of employment for workers in the undertaking, that employer is mandated under Act 651 to submit in writing to the Chief Labour Officer all relevant information – including the reasons for any termination, the number and categories of workers likely to be affected, and the period within which any termination is to be carried out.
Also, the employer is to consult the trade union concerned on measures to be taken to avert or minimise the termination, as well as measures to mitigate the adverse effects of any terminations on the workers concerned – such as finding alternative employment.
Minister of Finance Ken Ofori-Atta in an interview recently disclosed that government is planning to provide some monetary assistance to persons who have lost their jobs due to challenges induced by the Coronavirus pandemic in the mid-year budget review on Thursday. That move can only be realised with reliable data produced by the Chief Labour Officer.
But Labour Consultant Austin Gamey doubts the ability of the country’s Labour Office to produce data that will be near to accurate.
Speaking to the B&FT in an interview, Mr. Gamey said the spirit behind the law that entreats employers to submit redundancy data is to enable government fashion-out support schemes for persons who are laid off till they are gainfully employed.
Even though such a move might be difficult to practicalise in Ghana today, he noted that the massive lay-offs due to the struggles business are facing with the outbreak of Coronavirus offers a great opportunity for some sound policies to take care of the unemployed; but the under-resourcing of the Labour Department over the years will affect its capacity to generate accurate data for policy formulation.
“The Chief Labour Officer or an officer authorised by the Chief Labour Officer shall submit to every employer a questionnaire relating to the employment of workers by the employer with the respective centres.
“The employer shall complete and return the questionnaire to the Chief Labour Officer or authorised officer within 14 days after the expiration of every three months. When the employer fails, it will be sanctioned. So, in effect, we should have accurate data – not just data but accurate data on employment and unemployment in Ghana without any shadow of doubt.”