Effective January 1, there were four rates of daily minimum wage depending on provincial cost of living, including 300 baht ($9.19) for eight provinces, 305 baht ($9.34) for 49 provinces, 308 baht ($9.43) for 13 provinces, and 310 baht ($9.50) for seven provinces. This daily minimum was three times higher than the government-calculated poverty line of 2,644 baht ($81) per month, last calculated in 2015.
The maximum workweek by law is 48 hours, or eight hours per day over six days, with an overtime limit of 36 hours per week. Employees engaged in “dangerous” work, such as chemical, mining, or other industries involving heavy machinery, may work a maximum of 42 hours per week and may not work overtime. Petrochemical industry employees may not work more than 12 hours per day and may work continuously for a maximum period of 28 days.
The law requires safe and healthy workplaces, including for home-based businesses, and prohibits pregnant women and children younger than 18 from working in hazardous conditions. The law also requires the employer to inform employees about hazardous working conditions prior to employment. Workers do not have the right to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.
Legal protections do not apply equally to all sectors. For example, the daily minimum wage does not apply to employees in the public sector, SOEs, domestic work, nonprofit work, and seasonal agricultural work. Ministerial regulations provide household domestic workers some protections regarding leave, minimum age, and payment of wages, but they do not address minimum wage, regular working hours, social security, or maternity leave.
A large income gap remained between formal and informal employment, with workers in nonagricultural sectors earning an average of three times more than those in the agricultural sector. According to government statistics, 55 percent of the labor force worked in the informal economy, with limited protection under labor laws and the social security system.
There were reports daily minimum wages, overtime, and holiday pay were not well enforced in small enterprises, in some areas (especially rural or border areas), or in some sectors (especially agriculture, construction, and sea fishing). Labor unions estimated 5-10 percent of workers received less than the minimum wage; however, the share of workers who received lower than minimum wage was likely higher among unregistered migrant workers. Unregistered migrant workers rarely sought redress under the law due to their lack of legal status to work and live in the country legally.
The DLPW enforces laws related to labor relations and occupational safety and health. The law subjects employers to fines and imprisonment for minimum wage noncompliance, but enforcement was inconsistent. There were reports many cases of minimum wage noncompliance went to mediation in which workers agreed to settlements for owed wages lower than the daily minimum wage. Convictions for violations of occupational safety and health regulations include imprisonment and fines.
Medium and large factories often applied government health and safety standards, but overall enforcement of safety standards was lax. In the informal sector, such protections were substandard. NGOs and union leaders noted the main factors for ineffective enforcement as an insufficient number of qualified inspectors, overreliance on document-based inspection (instead of workplace inspection), lack of protection for workers’ complaints, lack of interpreters, and failure to impose effective penalties on noncompliant employers. A 2016 policy change allowed the government to address a chronic shortage of interpreters for labor inspections and identification of victims of trafficking. The Ministry of Labor doubled the number of registered interpreters during the year. These served mostly at fishing port inspection centers and in multidisciplinary human-trafficking teams. The Department of Employment took steps to increase awareness of migrant workers’ basic rights through briefings at three Post-Arrival and Reintegration Centers established in heavily trafficked border crossing areas.
The country has universal health care for all citizens, and social security and workers’ compensation programs to insure employed persons in cases of injury or illness and to provide maternity, disability, death, child allowance, unemployment, and retirement benefits. Registered migrant workers in both the formal and informal labor sectors and their dependents are also eligible to buy health insurance from the Ministry of Public Health.
NGOs reported many construction workers, especially subcontract workers and migrant workers, were not in the social security system or covered under the workers’ compensation program, despite requirements of the law. While the social security program is mandatory for employed persons, workers employed in the informal sector, temporary or seasonal employment, or self-employed may also contribute voluntarily to the workers’ compensation program and receive government matching funds.
NGOs reported several cases of the denial of government social security and accident benefits to registered migrant workers due to the failure of employers to fulfill mandatory contribution requirements or because of the failure of migrant workers to pass nationality verification.
Workers in the fishing industry were often deemed seasonal workers and therefore not required by law to have access to social security and accident compensation. The lack of sufficient occupational safety and health training, first aid, and reliable systems to ensure timely delivery of injured workers to hospitals after serious accidents further made fishery workers especially vulnerable. NGOs reported several cases of migrant workers who received only minimal compensation from employers after suffering disability or disfigurement on the job.
NGOs reported poor working conditions and lack of labor protections for migrant workers, including those near border-crossing points. In June the Ministry of Labor announced the Royal Ordinance Concerning the Management of Foreign Workers’ Employment to regulate the employment, recruitment, and protection of migrant workers. The decree imposes heavy civil penalties for employing or sheltering unregistered migrant workers, while strengthening worker protections by prohibiting Thai employment brokers and employers from charging migrant workers additional fees for recruitment. The draft decree also bans employers from withholding migrant worker documents and disallows those convicted of labor and antitrafficking laws from operating employment agencies. Nevertheless, advocates awaited potential changes to the decree after a 180-day stakeholder consultation period expiring in January 2018. Between July and September, 797,685 undocumented migrant workers took steps to register or adjust their documentation or legal status, and 198,332 employers submitted registration documentation to the Department of Employment.
Labor brokerage firms used a “contract labor system” under which workers sign an annual contract. By law businesses must provide contract laborers “fair benefits and welfare without discrimination”; however, employers often paid contract laborers less and provided fewer or no benefits.
NGOs noted local moneylenders, mostly informal, offered loans at exorbitant interest rates so citizen workers looking for work abroad could pay recruitment fees, some as high as 500,000 baht ($15,300). Department of Employment regulations limit the maximum charges for recruitment fees, but effective enforcement of the rules remained difficult and inadequate due to workers’ unwillingness to provide information and the lack of legal documentary evidence regarding underground recruitment and documentation fees as well as migration costs. Exploitative employment service agencies persisted in charging citizens working overseas large, illegal fees that frequently equaled their first- and second-year earnings.
In 2016, the latest year for which data was available, there were 89,488 reported incidents of diseases and injuries from workplace accidents. Observers said workplace accidents in the informal and agricultural sectors and among migrant workers were underreported. Employers rarely diagnosed or compensated occupational diseases, and few doctors or clinics specialized in them.