Department of Labour
The former Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) was bifurcated into two independent departments to establish the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources in 2003. While the responsibility of employment promotion and facilitation of DEL was entrusted to the Department of Employment, Department of Labour was assigned with the responsibility of labour administration in the country. Labour administration is guided by the labour administration policy and the Labour and Employment Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2007 and its Regulations.
” A Nation with just and fair labour administration system promoting GNH. ”
” To promote and protect the wellbeing of both the employers and employees through sound labour policy, labour relations management, tripartrism, social protection and healthy and safe working conditions. ”
- Protection of workers’ rights and vulnerable groups;
- Placing job security at the workplace;
- Promote decent working conditions and safer working environments;
- Promote fair and just work place;
- Alleviation of poverty through benefits like provident fund, gratuity & various compensations;
- Disseminate information about Labour related laws, rules and regulations and other executive orders in place;
- Establish good working relationships at workplaces;
- Promote a fair social protection and welfare system in the country;
- Facilitate employment of foreign workers where national workers are not available. (foreign workers against the government ceilings);
- Manage revision of the National Minimum Wage Rate with the government;
- Promote employment creation; and
- Promote tripartism in order to create conducive working environments.
The Department of Labour delivers its services in the areas of labour protection, social protection, foreign workers administration, and labour relations through the following four divisions:
- Labour Protection Division;
- Social Protection Division;
- Foreign Workers Division;
- Labour relations Division.
LABOUR PROTECTION DIVISION
The Labour Protection Division is mainly responsible for enforcing Labour and Employment Act, 2007 and its compliance by the private and corporate sector and its employers and employees. Specific function of the division are as follows:
- Inspect enterprises on working conditions and work environment as empowered by the Labour and Employment Act, 2007;
- Educate, inform and advice employers, management and workers on the content and meaning of the laws, encourage self-compliance, adopt self-inspection and gain compliance through enforcement measures;
- Monitor the implementation of Act and Rules and Regulations with an aim to identify weaknesses and shortcomings thus, enabling improvement to be made;
- Report on the outcome of each inspection visit and prepare regular reports on the operation of labour inspection section;
- Coordinate and share information with all other departments and agencies, both government and private, concerned with labour inspection and labour protection;
- Assist the Head of Department to shape new policies by collecting information, undertaking basic research, and assisting in drafting policy papers on wages, sexual harassment and occupational health and safety;
- Supervise the work and operations of labour inspectors in the regional offices;
- Implement and enforce OSH rules and regulation and laws governing OSH at work places;
- Ensure working environment at work places is healthy and safe for workers and general public;
- Conduct research on new safety and health problems and issues and measures to reduce work related illnesses and injuries;
- Develop recommendations on OSH standards;
- Conduct training and educate workers, employers, inspectors and general public on OSH;
- Promote safe and health at work places through recommendations and capacity building of enterprises;
- Assist general inspectors on technical issues at workplaces during inspection;
- Develop a centralized inspection facility to provide the necessary clearances (to ensure that imported machinery, equipment and substances are safe prior to their installation and use);
- Take measures to reduce occupational diseases through constant monitoring of workplaces on substances used, noise pollution, dust, heat, illumination, vibration, confined spaces and ventilation, and
- Gradually to extend services, particularly concerning occupational health and safety, to workers not covered by formal contractual agreement including self-employed persons, family businesses and farmers.
LABOUR RELATIONS DIVISION
This division is responsible for promoting and ensuring harmony at the workplace in accordance to the Labour and Employment Act, 2007 and its Regulations. Specific functions of the division are as follows:
- Assist in formulating policies, programs, workplace grievance procedures and activities to promote individual and collective workplace harmony and co-operation and minimize the number and impact of workplace conflicts and disputes;
- Educate and Inform workers, employers, relevant government officials, and wider society on the nature and purpose of a labour relation system in the country;
- Train workers and employers at enterprise level on labour relation process and interaction skills including communication, consultation and negotiation;
- Resolve dispute through information and advice, conciliation and mediation;
- Support technically and administratively, the operation of an arbitration and dispute settlement mechanisms;
- Promote workplace harmony and co-operation through enforcement and compliance of the laws;
- Provide advice and information to employers and employees about their rights and obligations;
- Investigate the nature and causes of labour disputes and assist the disputing parties to resolve disputes amicably;
- Educate the conciliators and arbitrators on the provisions of the Act, their roles and responsibilities;
- Review the rights dispute cases that the Grievance and Complaints Section is unable to resolve;
- Represent the ministry in a court of law;
- Prepare charge sheet not only on labour disputes but also on other violations and prosecute defaulters in a court of law, and
- Provide legal opinions to the Ministry and Departments as and when sought on legal matters pertaining to employment, labour, and human resources development, etc.
FOREIGN WORKERS DIVISION
Foreign Workers Division is mainly responsible for assessing the need of the foreign workers in the country and providing approval accordingly. Specific functions of the division are as follows:
- Review applications for foreign workers and accord approval to recruit and employ foreign workers in line with the policies, norms and rules and regulations;
- Monitor proper utilization of foreign workers by employers;
- Ensure repatriation of foreign workers when validity of work permits expire;
- Ensure that foreign workers receive equal treatment;
- Ensure that every foreigner who is working in the country possesses valid work permit;
- Ensure that both employers and foreign workers abide by other provisions of the Labour and Employment Act, 2007 and its Rules and Regulations;
- Monitor the performance of Foreign Workers Recruitment Agents and strengthen them through supervision, inspection and training;
- Recommend revision/changes in the foreign workers policies, rules and regulations and recruitment procedures;
- Liaise with Department of Immigration on issues related to management of foreign workers;
- Assess the need for foreign workers and recommend to the government from time to time for quotas for:
- The maximum number of foreigners who may work in the Kingdom,
- The maximum number of foreigners who may work in specified industries, occupations or both in the Kingdom, and
- Propose closure of occupations to foreigners that can easily be taken up by Bhutanese.
- Ensure that the Labour Net functions smoothly 24 hours a day and 7 days a week;
- Generate reports on foreign workers as and when required by the Department, Ministry and Government;
- Ensure that the foreign workers database and information is secure and is not made accessible to unauthorized persons; and
- Continuously review the capacity and functioning of the Labour Net and suggest remedial measures.
SOCIAL PROTECTION DIVISION
The core responsibility of Social Protection Division (SPD) is to promote and ensure social security of workers in the country. It is also responsible for reviewing and revising the National Minimum Wage rate periodically. Specific functions of SPD are as follows:
- Conduct study and research on social protection issues in the country and propose recommendations to the government for decision;
- Review the existing provident fund and gratuity schemes and see how, if at all, they can be integrated into a wider pension scheme;
- Draw up a comprehensive administrative and operational framework for social protection including arrangements for decentralized service;
- Plan and implement public awareness campaigns on social protection targeted to employees in the corporate and the private sectors;
- Arrange public forum to discuss social protection issues;
- Produce and disseminate public awareness material on social protection issue; and
- Draft Rules and Regulations on gratuity and provident fund and enforce them through the inspections system.
The primary objective of the national labour administration system is to ensure that workers have a descent and productive working conditions, freedom, equality, security and human dignity. The Department of Labour is entrusted with the responsibilities for:
- Employment conditions
- Safety and health at work
- Social security/ Social protection
- Foreign workers management
- Labour dispute and its settlement
- Collective bargaining and collective dispute settlement
In keeping with the constitution of Bhutan, the country’s Labour Administration Policy and the Labour and Employment Act, 2007 the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Labour are therefore, aimed to facilitate the fulfillment of the mandates enshrined in these documents.
A Nation where there is a harmonious and productive relationship between workers and employers
The Department of Labour is dedicated to the economic and social progress of the nation through the formulation and effective implementation of labor policies and the provision of high quality services for the benefit of workers and employers in the private and corporate sectors throughout the Kingdom in the fields of:
- Foreign workers
- Labor inspection
- Labor relations
- Social Protection
During the 10th Plan, the Department of Labor will strive to achieve the following objectives.
- Labor laws and regulations concerning labor inspection and labor relations will be drafted, submitted to the Ministry for approval, widely publicized and enforced.
- All enterprises liable to inspection will be inspected on average at least once per year.
- All workers, both national and foreign, will benefit from labor protection activities through a safer and healthier working environment, and improved working conditions.
- A national wage policy for the private and corporate sectors will be in place and implemented.
- A national occupational safety and health policy will be in place and supporting laws and regulations will be enacted, implemented and enforced.
- An integrated labor inspection system will be established and become operational.
- A system for bargaining on a range of labor relations issues, including wages and working conditions, will be established.
- Labor dispute prevention mechanisms will be established and become operational in various enterprises.
- Labor dispute resolution and settlement mechanisms, taking due account of traditional and customary approaches, will be in place and become operational.
- Minimize and manage the numbers of foreign workers.
The operational strategies of the Department to achieve these objectives are:
- Regulations on working conditions under the Labour and Employment Act, 2007 are developed and implemented,
- OHS policy/regulations are put in place,
- A national level wage policy is put in place and implemented,
- An integrated labour inspection system is institutionalized,
- Industrial/labour dispute prevention, resolution and settlement mechanism is institutionalized,
- Collective bargaining system through enterprise level workers association institutionalized.
- Foreign workers recruitment and management system strengthened through continuous upgradation of the labournet and reorganization of the Foreign Workers Recruitment Agents.
a) Labour Protection Division
- Inspecting enterprises (by inspectors empowered by law), to educate, inform and advise employers on the content and meaning of laws, encourage self-compliance and, if necessary, gain compliance through enforcement measures.
Monitoring the implementation of laws with a view to identifying weaknesses and shortcomings thus enabling improvements to be made
Extending labor inspection services, particularly concerning occupational safety and health, to workers not covered by formal contractual arrangements including self-employed persons, family businesses and farmers.
Reporting on the outcome of each inspection visit, preparing regular reports on the operation of the labor inspection and labor relations systems, and preparing an annual report to the Ministry.
Coordinating and information sharing with all other departments and agencies, both government and private, concerned with labor inspection and labor protection.
Shaping new policies by collecting information, undertaking basic research, and assisting in drafting policy papers on wages, occupational safety and health, and other matters.
Supervising the work and operations of labor inspectors in three regional offices.
Implement and enforce OHS rules and regulation and laws governing OHS at work places.
These to be achieved through
Routine Inspection These visits are either announced or unannounced and the Labour Inspectors check as many issues as possible. Every enterprise liable for inspection to be visited at least once a year
Follow-up InspectionThese visits are mainly to check that the employer complies with the improvement notice issued to him/her during the previous visit.
Special Inspection These visits focus on specific problems or issues. A special inspection visit will be made to investigate complaint by workers/employers, to focus on a particular problem or to investigate an accident. Such visits are usually unannounced.
b) Labour Relations Division
Educating and informing workers, employers, relevant government officials, and wider society of the nature and purpose of a labor relations system in a mixed economy.
Advising and training workers and employers at enterprise level on labor relations processes.
Training workers and employers at enterprise level on interaction skills including communication, consultation and negotiation.
Resolving disputes through information and advice, conciliation and mediation.
Supporting, technically and administratively, the operation of the arbitration dispute settlement machinery.
Promote workspace harmony and co-operation through enforcement and compliance of the laws,
Investigate the nature and causes of labour disputes and assist the disputing parties to resolve disputes amicably,
Submit charge sheet to a court of law,
Represent the Ministry in a court of law.
c) Foreign Workers Division
Review application for foreign workers and accord approval to recruit and employ foreign workers in line with the government policies, norms and rules and regulations,
Monitor proper utilization of foreign workers by employers,
Ensure that foreign workers are not exploited and receive equal treatment under the labour law
Ensure that both employers and foreign workers abide by the provisions of the Labour and Employment Act, 2007 and its Regulations,
Monitor the performance of Foreign Workers Recruitment Agents and strengthen them through supervision, inspection and training and re-organization from time to time
Liaise with Department of Immigration on issues related to management of foreign workers,
Ensure that the Labour Net functions smoothly 24 hours a day and 7 days a week,
d) Social Protection Division
Study and research on social protection issues in the country and propose recommendations to the government for decision,
Review the existing provident fund and gratuity schemes and see how, if at all, they can be integrated into a wider pension scheme,
Draw up a comprehensive administrative and operational framework for social protection including arrangements for decentralized services,
Plan and implement public awareness campaigns on social protection targeted to employees in the corporate and the private sectors,
Implement social protection schemes such as minimum wages, gratuity, provident fund, pensions, unemployment insurance, severance benefits, etc.
e) Regional Offices
The Regional Employment and Labour Offices in
Phuentsholing covering Chukha and Samtse Dzongkhags,
Gelephu covering Sarpang, Tsirang, Dagana, Trongsa, Zhemgang and Bumthang Dzongkhags
Samdrupjongklhar covering Samdrup Jongkhar and Pema Gatshel Dzongkhags
Trashigang covering Trashigang, Trashi Yangtse, Mongar and Lhuentse Dzongkhags, are the arms of the Ministry to reach its services closer to the public.
Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Punakha, Wangdi Phodrang and Gasa are presently covered by Headquarters. The Department proposes to establish RELO, Thimphu or Paro in the 11th Plan to cover these Dzongkhags and the Hqrs. will concentrate on policies, planning and supervision.
A field office in Lobesa/Bajothang is being set up exclusively for the Punatshangchu Hydropower Projects I & II.
1. Labour Net
The concept of Labour Net and Job Portal was put forward by the then National Employment Board in 2000. The Job Portal for online registration of job seekers and vacancies and automatic matching of jobs seekers against vacancies (not activated) was operationalized in 2001 by the Department of Employment and Labour (NEB renamed). The Labour Net was developed in 2003 – 2005 and operationalized in 2006 as the first web based interactive e-governance system in the country with the main objective of taking public services closer to the people and also to compel employers to make use of the ICT. The work permits processes which were managed by around 6-7 officers and staff when done manually are now managed by two officers. The Labour Net has been extensively quoted by the Department of Information Technology as one of the well functioning e-governance tools and by the Anti Corruption Commission as a corruption mitigation tool.
2. Labour Inspection and Reporting System (Online)
This system developed over the last two years and operationlized in July, 2010 is designed to take public services closer and speedily to the people using ICT.
The main functions of this system are to enable:
- The labour inspectors to: Submit inspection reports to the Chief Labour Administrator online for his required immediate decision on further action to be taken by the inspectors while they are still at the inspection sites.Issue improvement notices, prohibition notices and penalty memos to the inspectees online.
- The enterprises and employees:To register themselves,File complaints and accident reports online.
- Manage other aspects of labour administration online
1. Technical Capacity of the Department of Labour and Labour Officers to enforce Occupational Health and Safety
The Department of Labour being staffed with general graduates, lack the capacity to enforce occupational health and safety which is very technical in nature. In fact, the whole country seems to lack the expertise in OHS. There is need to urgently build the capacity of the Department and its officers for effective enforcement of OHS at work places as mandated by the government and the labour law. Such expertise are available in UN specialized agencies such as ILO. Unfortunately, ILO’s services are available only to its Members States. It is therefore, proposed that the government consider joining the ILO as a Member State.
2. Application of the Provisions of the Labour Law Uniformly Throughout the Country
While the Labour and Employment Act, 2007 applies to the whole of the country, application of its provisions uniformly throughout the country is the greatest challenge the Department is faced with. The recent decision of the Ministry to reinforce the work permit system as required by law, in the bilateral agencies and border towns has met with resistance from all quarters. Further, lack of awareness and their ability to understand the provisions of the law by most of the stakeholders leading to poor compliance, is yet another challenge the Department is faced with. Unconditional support of all authorities is essential if the Department is to fulfill its mandates as enshrined in the labour law.
3. Shortage of Resources
This constraint may be faced by all agencies in the government. However, the Department of Labour being fairly new (established in 2003) with couple of officers is faced with acute shortage of qualified officers and other resources. Only one division chief out of four approved exists as of now. Further, almost all the officers of the Department, except for the head of the Department and the sole division chief, are fresh graduates who need extensive training in labour administration for which there is no resource. Training in labour administration is not easily available except in International Training Centre of ILO which again is available only to the Members States or on full fee payment basis to non-member countries for which the Department has no resource. It may therefore, be not out of context for the government to resolve the human resources shortage of a new Department such as the Department of Labour.
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