Labour Relations Act
- Commenced on 1 December 1997
- [This is the version of this document at 31 December 2014.]
- [Note: This version of the Act was revised and consolidated in the Fifth Revised Edition of the Laws of Malawi (L.R.O. 1/2018), by the Solicitor General and Secretary for Justice under the authority of the Revision of the Laws Act.]
Part I – Preliminary
1. Short titleThis Act may be cited as the Labour Relations Act.
2. InterpretationIn this Act, unless the context otherwise requires—“collective agreement” means a written agreement between an employer, or an employers’ organization authorized by the employer, and a trade union concerning terms and conditions of employment and any other matter of mutual interest;“Council” means the Tripartite Labour Advisory Council appointed under section 55;“employee” means—(a)a person who offers his or her services under an oral or written contract of employment, whether express or implied;(b)a person who performs work or services for another person for remuneration or reward on such terms and conditions that he or she is in relation to that person in a position of economic dependence on, and under an obligation to perform duties for that person more closely resembling the relationship of employee than that of an independent contractor; and(c)where appropriate, a former employee;“employer” means any person or undertaking, corporation, company, public authority or body of persons who or which employs an employee, and includes the heirs, successors and assigns of an employer;“employers’ organization” means any combination established by employers, the principal purposes of which are the representation and promotion of employers’ interests and the regulation of relations between employers and employees;“essential services” means services, by whomsoever rendered, and whether rendered to the Government or to any other person, the interruption of which would endanger the life, health or personal safety of the whole or part of the population;“Industrial Relations Court” means the Industrial Relations Court established under section 110 (2) of the Constitution;“lockout” means closing a place of employment, a suspension of work by an employer, or a refusal by an employer to continue to employ or re-engage any number of his or her employees, done to compel his or her employees, or to aid another employer to compel his or her employees, to agree to terms or conditions of, or affecting employment;“organization” means a trade union or employers’ organization;“Registrar” means the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations appointed under section 9;“sector” means an industry or a service;“strike” means concerted action resulting in a cessation of work, a refusal to work or to continue to work by employees, or a slowdown or other concerted activity of employees that is designed to or does limit production or services, but does not include an act or omission required for the safety or health of employees, or a refusal to work under section 52;“trade union” means any combination of persons, the principal purposes of which are the representation and promotion of employees’ interests and the regulation of relations between employees and employers, and includes a federation of trade unions but not an organization or association that is dominated by an employer or employers’ organization;
Part II – Freedom of association
4. Freedom of associationEvery person shall have the right to freedom of association, which shall include the freedom to establish and join organizations of his or her own choosing.
5. Rights of trade unions and employers organizationsEvery organization has the right to—
6. Protection of employees
7. Protection in respect of organizations
Part III – Trade unions and employers’ organizations
9. Appointment of Registrar and Assistant Registrars
12. Effect of registration
13. Rules of registered trade unions and employers organizations
14. Alteration of rules
15. Change of name
17. Deposit and safeguard of funds
18. Annual return
19. Retention of documents
20. Disqualification for officeNo person who has been convicted of any crime involving fraud or dishonesty shall, within five years of the date of such conviction, be an officer of an organization or a person employed in collecting the funds of an organization.
21. Cancellation of registration
22. Reasons for decisions
Part IV – Collective bargaining and organizational rights
25. Enterprise level bargaining
26. Sectoral-level bargaining
27. Establishment of industrial councils
28. Composition of industrial councils
29. Meetings of industrial councils
30. Functions of industrial council
31. Duty to negotiate in good faith
32. Terms of collective agreements
33. Enforceability of collective agreements
34. Submission of collective agreementsThe parties to a collective agreement shall deposit a copy of the collective agreement with the Registrar.
35. Access to employers premises
36. Trade union subscriptions
37. Leave for trade union activities
38. Disclosure of information
39. Successor rights and obligations
40. Right to choose a representativeAn employee has the right to be assisted by a representative of his or her choice, including an officer of an unregistered trade union, in an individual grievance or disciplinary matter.
41. Review of thresholds
Part V – Dispute settlement
42. Definition of disputeIn this Part, “dispute” means any dispute or difference between an employer or employers’ organization and employees or a trade union, as to the employment or non-employment, or the terms of employment, or the conditions of labour or the work done or to be done, of any person, or generally regarding the social or economic interests of employees.
43. Reporting of disputes
44. Conciliation procedure
45. Unresolved disputes
46. Strike or lockout procedures
47. Strike or lockout in essential services
48. Status of collective agreement and employment contractWhere action in pursuance of a strike or lockout takes place in conformity with this Act—
49. Civil immunityNo civil proceedings shall be brought against any employee, employer, organization or federation of organizations, or officer or member of such organizations, in respect of any strike or lockout in conformity with this Act, or any act not constituting a criminal offence committed by such person or organization in furtherance of such strike or lockout.
50. Right to return to employment
51. Temporary replacement of labour
52. Refusal to do strikers workAn employee has the right to refuse to do any work normally done by an employee or employees who are on strike or locked out, except in the case of an essential service.
53. Peaceful picketing
54. Injunction in respect of strike or lockout
Part VI – Tripartite Labour Advisory Council
55. Establishment of the Council
56. Officers of the Council
57. Term of officeMembers of the Council shall be appointed for a term of three years and shall be eligible for reappointment.
58. Functions of the Council
59. Meetings of the Council
60. QuorumThree members of the Council shall constitute a quorum, as long as one representative from each of the Government, trade unions and employers’ organizations is present.
62. Allowances and expensesThe members of the Council shall be paid allowances and reimbursed reasonable expenses, as prescribed by the Minister.
Part VII – The Industrial Relations Court
63. Constitution and operation of the Industrial Relations CourtThe Industrial Relations Court shall be constituted and operated in accordance with this Act.
64. JurisdictionThe Industrial Relations Court shall have original jurisdiction to hear and determine all labour disputes and disputes assigned to it under this Act or any other written law.
67. Quorum and decision
68. Appointment and vacation of office
69. Appointment of officers and Staff
70. Allowances and expenses of members
71. Procedure and evidence
73. Representation of parties
74. Failure to attendIf a party fails to attend or to be represented at the proceedings of the Industrial Relations Court without good cause, the Industrial Relations Court may proceed in the absence of that party or representative.
75. Enforcement of ordersAny decision or order of the Industrial Relations Court shall have the same force and effect as any other decision or order of a competent court and shall be enforceable accordingly.
Part VIII – Miscellaneous
77. Notification of registration, etc., in the GazetteThe Registrar shall publish the following information in the Gazette—
78. RegulationsThe Minister may make regulations for carrying the purposes and provisions of this Act into effect and prescribing all matters which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for the better carrying out of the provisions of this Act.
79. Repeal and savings
History of this document
01 December 1997