There is a sector-specific national minimum wage and a general minimum wage. The general minimum monthly wage varied from 878 maloti to 958 maloti ($109 to $119). Minimum wage provisions did not cover significant portions of the workforce. Workers in agriculture or other informal sectors are not covered by labor laws.
The law stipulates standards for hours of work, including a maximum 45-hour workweek, a weekly rest period of at least 24 hours, a daily minimum rest period of one hour, at least 12 days of paid leave per year, paid sick leave, and public holidays. Required overtime is legal as long as overtime wages are paid for work in excess of the standard 45-hour workweek. The maximum overtime allowed is 11 hours per week; however, there are exemptions under special circumstances. The laws require that the premium pay for overtime be at a rate not less than one-and-one-quarter times the employee’s normal wage; any employer who requires excessive compulsory overtime shall liable to a fine, imprisonment, or both.
The law empowers the Ministry of Labor and Employment to issue regulations on work safety. The law requires employers to provide adequate light, ventilation, and sanitary facilities for employees and to install and maintain machinery in a manner to minimize injury. It also requires a registered health and safety officer that promotes safe conduct. Employers must provide first aid kits, safety equipment, and protective clothing. The law does not explicitly protect the right of workers to remove themselves from hazardous situations without prejudice to employment; however, sections of the code on safety in the workplace and dismissal imply that such a dismissal would be illegal. The law also provides for a compensation system for industrial injuries and diseases related to employment. The commissioner of labor is charged with investigating allegations of labor law violations.
The Ministry of Labor and Employment is responsible for enforcing these laws and standards; however, budget resources limited the enforcement of the law. In practice businesses operating in the formal sector, including the apparel industry, were subject to more enforcement than businesses operating in the informal sector. The ministry’s inspectorate reported that many locally owned businesses did not keep records of employees’ salaries to facilitate labor inspections as required by law. Labor inspectors generally conducted unannounced inspections of a random sample of workplaces on a weekly basis. Inspections in mountain districts, however, were done on a quarterly basis. Labor laws do not cover the agricultural and other informal sectors, where most workers are employed. The Labor Inspectorate stated that employers did not always observe these standards.
According to the labor commissioner, employers in the retail sector were the worst violators. The most common allegations involved ignoring labor regulations for ordinary work hours, overtime, and public holidays. BWL also reported that some employers made incorrect lower than required overtime payment to workers.
Part-time workers of all Shoprite supermarkets complained that most were paid 610 maloti ($75), below the 1,228 maloti ($152) per month minimum wage stipulated for full-time workers in the retail sector. After these workers went on strike on October 5, their employer increased the wages by 210 maloti ($26) to 820 maloti ($101).
According to health and safety inspectors in the Ministry of Labor and Employment, larger employers generally followed health and safety regulations, but smaller employers failed to appoint or train registered health and safety officers. With the exception of the mining industry, employers’ compliance with health and safety regulations generally was low. Inspectors stated that employers in the retail sector were not fully compliant with standards, as they had no registered health or safety officers, complete first aid kits, or protective clothing.
Trade union representatives described textile sector working conditions as poor or even harsh but not dangerous. Unions said that most textile factories were in prefabricated metal buildings with improper ventilation and air conditioning. Unions stated, however, that conditions were not detrimental to workers’ health and cited few examples of serious safety violations. Third-party auditors hired by foreign textile buyers conducted spot checks on many exporting factories, customarily sought labor’s input, and briefed the unions on their findings. Unions believed the third-party auditors kept factory owners in line with health and safety regulations.
Many workplace policies cover employees with HIV/AIDS. For example, the Apparel Lesotho Alliance to Fight AIDS (ALAFA) described HIV/AIDS as the primary occupational health risk in the apparel sector. ALAFA reported that 85 percent of workers were women and 43 percent of all workers were infected with HIV. Employers provided space for examinations and time off to see doctors, receive counseling, and participate in educational and antistigma programs.
The government supported the implementation of BWL and announced that participation in the program was to be mandatory for the textile industry. BWL supported Ministry of Labor and Employment inspection efforts by sharing crucial noncompliances and inconsistent labor law application instances to ensure that inspectors raise them with employers. BWL also shared experiences and knowhow on assessment findings with the ministry on a regular basis with a view to work towards industry-wide improvements.
Working conditions for foreign or migrant workers were similar to those of residents.