Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, on Saturday, announced that businesses that had enforced no-pay leaves, cut salaries or laid off workers could apply for loans under the government's relief fund if they reversed employment act violations.
Speaking at a press conference held at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), the minister stated that employers would also be required to pay a minimum of MVR 5,000 as compensation to workers.
The government introduced the MVR 2.5 billion relief fund to mitigate the economic repercussions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One of the conditions to be fulfilled by businesses applying for the financial aid is having opted to not deduct from salaries or lay off workers.
According to Ameer, the state has approved loans for 111 individuals through Bank of Maldives (BML), which will issue loans to businesses that generate more than MVR 10 million in revenue per year. He stated that MVR 109.6 million was already disbursed to 83 individuals via BML.
The minister stated that SME Development Finance Corporation (SDFC) had disbursed MVR 6.2 million to 76 individuals while a total of 380 loans were approved.
Furthermore, the finance minister revealed the government's decision to increase the size of loans issued to small business by SDFC to MVR 30,000 from the initial allocation of MVR 18,000.
The spread of COVID-19, subsequent travel restrictions and lockdown measures have led to businesses closing down and reducing costs in response to rising recession fears. Many have taken their worries to social media, expressing ways the cutbacks could, affect the living situation of employees within the Maldivian workforce in the upcoming weeks and months.
Estimates from the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) revealed earlier show that 11,000 workers in the tourism industry alone were already forced to go on no-pay leave.
In order to support individuals experiencing financial difficulties as a result of employment issues amid the pandemic, the government has introduced an 'Income Support Allowance' which grants an allowance of up to MVR 5000. Individuals that were laid off, forced to take no-pay leave and subjected to salary deductions as well as freelancers are eligible to apply for assistance under the relief scheme.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Development has established a reporting module via an online platform at www.jobcenter.mv through which individuals can report employment issues.
According to legal experts who spoke to The Edition, employers do not have the legal right to make unilateral adjustments to an employment contract, and reduce wages and allowances, nor impose annual leave.
Further, they note that mutual agreement between the employer and employee is required before a worker is placed on unpaid leave.
Additionally, the experts urged employees, both local and expatriate, to reach out to relevant authorities, including the Employment Tribunal, in case of unfair treatment and dismissals.