Government has noted with great concern the increasing reported cases of abuse and exploitation of Malawians working abroad, particularly in the Middle East (or Gulf Region). It is even more disheartening to learn that most of those who find themselves in such unfortunate situation migrate after fulfilling all the requirements for the job offered as set by the prospective employer.
The reports emerging are to the effect that upon taking up employment, the identity and travel documents of the unsuspecting Malawians are retained by the employers; the conditions of work turn out to be worse off than what was promised; and in some cases, even the type of job changes to one that is worse off, for example from hair dresser in a beauty salon to domestic worker. It has been noted that the employment of these Malawians is facilitated largely by private employment agencies (PrEAs).
Government has a duty to ensure that every Malawian, whether within or outside the country, enjoys adequate protection of any kind befitting a human being. In order to secure and enhance the protection of all Malawians working or wishing to work abroad, the Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development – guided by relevant international instruments on the protection of migrant workers, including International Labour Convention number 97 on “Migration for Employment” which Malawi ratified in 1965 – hereby issues the following guidelines that must be observed by all PrEAs and prospective Malawian labour migrants with immediate effect:
PRIVATE EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES
Private Employment Agencies must:
Ensure that after registering with the Registrar General, they provide details of their Registration to this Ministry;
Get details of the location of their counterpart PrEA in the country of employment as well as those of the prospective employer. The locations must be traceable.
Provide to the Ministry copies of the terms and conditions of employment supplied by prospective employers for vetting before migrants leave to take up employment.
Provide a copy of the terms and conditions of employment to every successful candidate before departure as supplied by the prospective employer. The terms and conditions should be thoroughly explained to the successful candidates in order to enable them make informed decisions on whether to take up the offers or not;
Brief the successful candidates on the culture and way of life in the country of employment and any do’s and dont’s that must be observed;
Provide every migrating Malawian with a copy of these guidelines;
Ensure that if medical examination is a prerequisite for employment, it should be clearly explained to the successful candidates and only conducted with their full consent taking into account respect of confidentiality of personal medical record.
Ensure that the facilitating agency or employer, as appropriate, in the country of employment is credible and has a good reputation. Assistance to get more facts on the credibility and reputation may be sought from the Malawian mission covering the country concerned;
Update the Ministry at the end of every month on Malawians who have secured employment through the PrEA, providing all the necessary personal and employment details covering name; sex; age; next of kin together with contact details; village; Traditional Authority; District; educational and professional qualifications; type of employment and its duration, wages payable, location and contact details of the counterpart employment agency and employer in the country of employment, contact details of the migrant and any other information that the PrEA may find relevant;
Set as a pre-condition for the supply of labour that the counterpart employment agency or prospective employer, as appropriate, shall:
Not retain the Passport and other identity documents, certificates and travel documents of the employee or indeed restrict the employee’s movements in any way;
Provide a return air ticket to the employee upon the expiry or termination of the contract of employment;
Facilitate the introduction of the employee to the Malawi mission covering their country and not prevent the employee from communicating with anyone, including members of the employee’s family in Malawi;
Provide location, physical and postal addresses of the employer as well as other contact details such as telephone and cell phone numbers;
Provide location, physical and postal addresses of the employee as well as other contact details, such as telephone and cell phone numbers;
Provide feedback to the counterpart Malawian PrEA, as appropriate and at least quarterly, on any challenges in terms of the capacity (performance) or conduct of the Malawian migrant worker as well as corrective measures being taken;
Treat the Malawian worker in accordance with the national labour laws of the country of employment, including enjoyment of the right to complain about working conditions; and
Not make any changes to the employment contract unless such changes are more favourable to the employee;
It must be emphasized here that failure to comply with the above guidelines may result in the cancellation of the registration granted to the local employment agency concerned.
It should also be born in mind that where a Malawian migrant worker suffers abuse or exploitation, the Malawian PrEA that facilitated the employment may be liable to prosecution under the Trafficking in Persons Act, 2015 if the case has elements of offences stipulated in that Act.
Private employment agencies are therefore urged to exercise due diligence at all times when facilitating the employment of Malawians abroad.
As part of its supervisory role, the Ministry may from time to time demand to interview the migrating workers in order to satisfy itself that they have been provided with all the relevant pre-departure information and other necessary requirements in an effective manner.
All those migrating for employment, whether through private employment agencies or on their own should:
Satisfy themselves that they have read and understood the terms and conditions under which they will be working;
Not provide false information about their qualifications, health status and health condition;
Ensure that they comply with all lawful and reasonable instructions given by the employer;
Maintain contact with the PrEA that facilitated their employment;
Secure contact and maintain communication with the Malawian mission in the country of employment; and
Report immediately any abusive practices suffered to the contact point as advised by the Malawi mission responsible for the country of employment or to the competent authority in that country, as appropriate, if the employer does not take any corrective measures after the abuse is reported to him/her;
Prospective employees are encouraged to consult legal experts or this Ministry when in doubt about the conditions of service that have been sent to them prior to departing the country to take up the position.
Government wishes to assure all Malawians that it is doing everything possible within its powers, including the use of diplomatic channels, to secure the return of all Malawians reportedly caught up in abusive work situations. At the same time, action towards strengthening the regulatory framework to avoid future occurrences of a similar nature is under way.
Above all, Government wishes to advise all Malawians wishing to migrate abroad for the purpose of employment that it is first and foremost their individual responsibility to take all necessary precautions to avoid falling into abusive work situations.
Patrick H. Kabambe
SECRETARY FOR LABOUR, YOUTH AND MANPOWER DEVELOPMENT