Everything else.. Workers’ Rights You May Not Know You Had

Workers’ Rights You May Not Know You Had

2019 May 1

Labour regulations guarantee the protection of workers from possible wrongdoings by employers. They also protect employees from several other threats, in addition to maintaining a productive and ethical working environment.

This May Day, here’s a roundup of some workers’ rights you may not have known you had, from the very basics to the generally lesser known entitlements, rights and obligations of every employee.

Two of the most important documents pertaining to workers’ rights are the Shop and Office Employees’ (Regulation of Employment and Remuneration) Act No. 19 of 1954 and the Wages boards Ordinance of 1941. If this article does not answer a question you had, more information can be found on the legislations grid of the website of the Department of Labour, Sri Lanka (www.labourdept.gov.lk).

Working Hours and Days

A normal working day consists of a total of 8 hours. One working week should not exceed more than a total of forty-five hours.

The number of working hours that exceed the above should be considered overtime. Overtime payment rate should not be less than one and one-half times (1.5x) the hourly rate, calculated by dividing the monthly rate by 240.* (Certain Executives in State Corporation are not entitled to overtime payment.) The number of overtime hours per week is limited to twelve (12) hours.

Every person is entitled to an interval period (usually for one hour between 11am and 2pm) for meals.

If an employee is required to work on a Full Moon Poya day or a public holiday, he/she is entitled to not less than one and a half (1.5x) times the normal rate of daily remuneration.

Employees are also allowed 14 days of annual leave (if service began between January 1st and April 1st of the year) and 7 days of casual or informal leave (for reasons such as illness or attending to private matters) per year.

Minimum Wage

According to the National Minimum Wage for Workers Act 2016, the minimum wage in Sri Lanka is Rs.10, 000 per month. The daily minimum wage of a worker is Rs.400.


According to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka, discrimination on grounds of sex, race, language and other grounds are strictly prohibited. All persons are equal before the law and therefore, entitled to equal protection of the law.

Child Labour Laws

Anyone below the age of 14 years should not be recruited for employment.*

No person under the age of 18 years is allowed to work between 6pm and 6am on any day.

Maternity Benefits

Female employees are granted 70 days of maternity leave, starting from the date of confinement.*


All employees should be given a Letter of Appointment with comprehensive details regarding the terms and conditions of their employment. If the letter is in English, an explanation of all the terms and conditions included in the letter should be given in a suitable language (Sinhala or Tamil) to employees who do not fully comprehend English.

The premises of a shop or office should be sufficiently ventilated and provided with adequate lighting.

Social Security

The social security of all employees is ensured through the Employees’ Provident Fund, Employees’ Trust Fund and the Gratuity Fund. These three mechanisms guarantee the provision of certain benefits to employees once they retire, change jobs or complete a certain period of employment.

*Certain terms and conditions apply.

In a country like Sri Lanka, not everyone follows these laws. Prevalent issues such as child labour, overtime with no pay, and paying below minimum wage must be countered.

This May Day, know your rights.

The writer has made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this article has been obtained from reliable sources. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only.


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