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MANZINI – In the past four- and-a-half months, 18 947 employees have been placed on unpaid leave.

This is a cumulative figure as of July 24, 2020. This figure reflects an increment of 4 899 employees from the 14 048 workers who were reported by the Labour Commissioner, Mthunzi Shabangu, in May. According to Shabangu, 159 companies have so far invoked Section 5 (a) of the Guidelines on Employment Contingency Measures in Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, General Notice No. 22 of 2020, by filing applications for temporary layoffs of their workers.

Shabangu said it must be noted that this was a cumulative figure, which included those industries which had since opened in the gradual relaxation of the partial lockdown and recalled their employees back to work. Moreover, he said most of the employers who were now filing applications for layoffs were those who were seeking retrospective approval of their layoffs because they wanted to apply for compensatory relief on behalf of their employees from the Unpaid Layoffs Relief Fund.

He said: “In terms of the guidelines for the fund, an employer who applies for compensatory relief on behalf of her employees must be in possession of a letter of approval of the layoffs issued by the office of the commissioner of labour.” Shabangu said 77 companies that had sought unpaid layoffs were from the Hhohho Region; 62 were from the Manzini Region; 10 were from the Lubombo Region and 10 were from the Shiselweni Region. He said of the 159 companies, 118 of them had since had their applications approved after due processes. This, according to Shabangu, resulted in the total of 18 947 employees being affected by the unpaid layoffs.

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