President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, on Tuesday, ratified amendments to six different Acts including the Audit Act, Human Rights Commission Act, Criminal Procedure Act, Employment Act and Special Act to Ensure Enforcement of Decentralisation Act along with the COVID-19 Special Measures Bill 2020.
All the aforementioned legislations were approved by the Parliament on September 6, during the 33rd sitting of its second session.
The COVID-19 Special Measures Bill 2020, which was introduced to tackle issues posed by the ongoing pandemic, was amended to add safeguards against the disease’s impacts by facilitating assistance to families struggling to access basic necessities, and by ensuring temporary shelter to those in need, among other precautionary measures to prevent homelessness.
Similarly, the amendment sets guidelines on special leave policies for employees unable to perform their routine work-responsibilities due to COVID-19. Barring extraordinary circumstances, it prevents alterations being made to an employee's status in response to the disease.
This Act will, however, only come into effect 60 days after the current state of public health emergency is lifted.
The amendment to the Audit Act grants room for the Auditor General to perform their mandate independently, adds safeguards against undue influences and includes ethical guidelines that the Auditor General must abide by. This is the second time that the Audit Act was amended since its introduction in 2007.
The newly ratified second amendment to the Human Rights Commission Act mandates all appointed individuals to declare their assets to ensure they cannot gain illicit advantage from their position and lists ethical guidelines for members to abide by.
President Solih also ratified the long awaited third amendment to the Criminal Procedure Act, which finally lists rape and sexual abuse of minors as serious criminal offences in addition to adding enforcement mechanisms to the Act.
Furthermore, the sixth amendment to the Employment Act, which mandates all employers to provide a signed copy of the employment agreement to all employees within 3 months of the amendment coming into effect, was also ratified on Wednesday.
The amendment, which drew severe criticism during the Parliament's committee review stage, also reduces the 30 days of paid sick leave granted to all employees to 15 days annually. Employees can also no longer take more than two consecutive days of paid sick leave without providing a medical certificate.
As per the newly added alterations, the relevant minister must determine and implement a minimum wage for all employees in the Maldives after consulting the Minimum Wage Advisory Board.
Moreover, the amendment sets a ceiling for the numbers of foreign workers from each country, prioritises Maldivians for employment and training opportunities and sets standards for accommodations and living conditions provided by employers.
The President also ratified the first amendment to the Special Act to Ensure Enforcement of the Decentralization Act of Maldives, with three new provisions after Section 7 of the Act, providing instructions on how President and Vice-President of the Local Government Authority (LGA) should be elected. Under the amendment, the LGA President will be answerable to the Parliament, on LGA-related matters.
All of the amendments ratified on Wednesday have now been published in the government's gazette for public viewing.