Employment contracts can be for a limited or an unlimited period. If the duration is not determined properly in the contract, it will be considered automatically as an unlimited period contract. Employment contracts must be concluded in writing within 30 days from the starting date of employment and with the following content: identity of the parties, the place of work, job description, starting date of employment, duration of the contract, holiday allowance, period of notification for the termination of the contract, elements of the salary and the date for the issuance and the normal weekly working time.
Probation is considered to apply in the period of first three (3) or six (6) months of the job but it can be reduced or removed with an agreement in writing or with the collective agreement (with all employees or with their representatives of trade unions). An employee’s probation can be extended once for another maximum period of 6 months, following which continued employment is deemed to convert to a permanent contract if such an employee is not evaluated as being unfit for the job being done.
The labour laws of Sierra Leone have provisions for weekly working hours. These are as follows:
Working hours and Holidays
- Normal duration of working hours is not more than 8 hours in a day
- Normal duration of working hours in a week is not more than 40 hours
- If the official holiday is during the weekend the holiday is postponed on Monday.
- Employees are entitled of a paid annual leave not less than 20 working days. Where such leave does not apply if it applies on public holiday.
Overtime Work and Remuneration
- The overtime hours are considered additional hours over the normal duration of the working day of 8 hours or the overtime hours over the normal working day of the employee that works part time.
- A full time employee can only work up to 10 supplementary hours a week, bringing the total maximum permissible weekly working period to be 50 hours.
- Overtime hours must be paid with a bonus of 25% of the regular rate.
- Overtime hours during the weekends or the official holidays are remunerated with time off or an increase in effective wage rates of not less than 50% of the normal salary for the additional hours except cases when is determined differently in the collective contract.
Termination of Employment Contracts
The termination of the employment contract should respect the regulations of the labour laws. The forms of termination of the employment contract dependent on the type of contract (limited or unlimited period) are as follows:
Termination of the employment contract for an unlimited period: If an employment is to be terminated by any one contracting party, such a party should give a notice period for such termination and such period should generally be a minimum of 30 days before the due date for the end of the employment or payment for 30 days of wages or salary paid in lieu of the remuneration of the other party
Termination of employment contract for a limited period: At the end of the period determined in the contract, termination can be given without any notice
Termination during the probation period: During the probationary months of employment, the period of notice is 5 days to be given by the employer
Immediate termination: At any time for justifiable causes. In case of unjustifiable causes the employer may be compelled by the court decision to pay a penalty or compensation
Mutual agreement: This applies where both parties agree to terminate the employment contract, subject to mutually acceptable terms.
Settlement of Labour Disputes
Disputes between employers and employees arising from matters such as unlawful dismissal are typically settled through arbitration by the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Industrial Relations. Where such measures fail, parties may resort to the courts for settlement of disputes.
Work Permits are required for all non-citizens employed to work in Sierra Leone. This requirement is in addition to the need to get a Resident Permit (See Chapter – Immigration, Visas and Resident Permits). Work permit cases are considered by a Committee constituted under the supervision and control of the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Industrial Relations. This section deals particularly with procedures for issuance of Work Permits to foreign workers in Sierra Leone. The Government of Sierra Leone, however, recently passed a Local Content Policy, which aims at creating channels that can facilitate linkages between foreign enterprises and the domestic firms through which the available skills and resources can be identified locally. One of the objectives of this policy is to promote employment and training of Sierra Leoneans by stating conditions for bringing in expatriate workers and prescribing requirements which will require investors to employ a stipulated percentage of Sierra Leoneans at various levels of the labour force. The issuance of Work Permits is a tool used in achieving this objective.
The procedures for securing work permits involve the employing organisation making an application on behalf of its expatriate worker, to the Work Permit Committee, with other supporting documents. The documents and case for the Permit will be reviewed by the Committee and a decision is made on whether there is a valid case for the employee. The supporting documents to be submitted depends on whether the employer is a profit-oriented private commercial entity or whether it is a non-profit Non-Government or Charity Organisation (NGO).