There is no national minimum wage. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security sets wage scales for each industry. There was a legally mandated sliding scale of minimum wages depending on the type of work performed. For example, the minimum monthly wage was 531 emalangeni ($40) for a domestic worker, 1,137 emalangeni ($86) for a preschool teacher, 768 emalangeni ($58) for a semiskilled worker in the forestry industry, and 1,060 emalangeni ($80) for a skilled worker in the forestry industry. All workers in the formal sector, including migrant workers, are covered by the wage laws. The government estimated that approximately 63 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.
There was a standard 48-hour workweek for most workers and a 72-hour workweek for security guards spread over a period of six days. It was not clear whether there were specific exceptions for female workers. The law requires all workers have at least one day of rest per week and provides for premium pay for overtime. Most workers received a minimum of 12 days of annual leave with full pay. Workers receive 14 days of sick leave with full pay and 14 days with half pay after three months of continuous service; these provisions apply only once per calendar year. No sick leave is granted if an injury results from an employee’s own negligence or misconduct.
The law provides for some protection of workers’ health and safety. The government set safety standards for industrial operations and encouraged private companies to develop accident prevention programs. According to the 2001 Occupational Safety and Health Act, workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation.
The government inconsistently enforced the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which lays out the rights and responsibilities of employers, employees, and the government with respect to occupational health and safety.
The constitution calls on parliament to enact laws to protect a worker’s right to satisfactory, safe, and healthy employment conditions, but parliament did not enact any such laws during the year. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is responsible for enforcement of labor laws but faced significant resource challenges, including a lack of motor vehicles and inability to hire additional staff. There were only an estimated 20 labor inspectors serving the entire country, and while the labor commissioner’s office conducted inspections in the formal sector, it did not have the resources to conduct inspections in the informal sector. The government also undertook an initial review of the status of labor brokers in response to growing complaints that the lack of regulation of labor brokers facilitated the exploitation of workers.
Labor laws applied to the informal sector but were seldom enforced. Most workers were in the informal sector, but credible data were not available. Workers in the informal sector, particularly foreign migrant workers, children, and women, risked facing hazardous and exploitative conditions.
Wage arrears, particularly in the garment industry, were a problem. Working conditions in the industry generally were good, although workers complained that wages were low and that procedures for getting sick leave approved were cumbersome in some factories. The minimum monthly wage for a skilled employee in the industry--including sewing machinists and quality checkers--was 1,488 emalangeni ($113). Minimum wage guidelines did not apply to the informal sector, where many workers were employed.
The garment sector has a standard 48-hour workweek, but workers stated that working overtime was compulsory because they had to meet demanding daily and monthly production quotas.
Public transportation workers complained they were required to work 12 hours a day or more without overtime compensation and that they were not entitled to pensions and other benefits. The country’s nurses engaged in strikes and work slowdowns during the year to advocate for higher wages and to protest what they considered unsafe working conditions in hospitals and clinics. Some facilities lacked proper ventilation systems, water, and sanitation supplies.
Although policies existed regarding maternity leave, women often believed they were compelled to keep working from economic need, which sometimes resulted in giving birth in unsafe environments; for example, on the way to work. In the garment sector, which primarily employed women, female workers and their unions stated that they were very hesitant to use their maternity leave due to uncertainty that their right to return to work would be respected.
Credible data on workplace fatalities and accidents were not available. On March 8, the Times of Swaziland reported a sugar-packing company employee died after he was pinned by a forklift truck against the factory roof. The employee was loading a sugar-packing machine when the accident occurred.