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Sri Lanka: Two Laws on Wages Adopted

(June 21, 2016) In March 2016, Sri Lanka adopted two laws on wages designed to guarantee a minimum income level for workers. The National Minimum Wages Act, No. 3 of 2016, mandates a national, minimum monthly wage of Rs10,000 (about US$67.56), and the Budgetary Relief Allowance of Workers Act, No. 4 of 2016, establishes that a wage increase of Rs2,500 (about US$16.89) is applicable to all workers earning less than RS40,000 per month (about US$270). Act No. 3 is to be deemed effective as of January 1, 2016; parts of Act No. 4 are effective as of May 1, 2015, with other parts entering into force as of January 1, 2016. (SL Enacted Two Significant Laws on Wages Towards Decent Wage Setup – WDJ, DAILY NEWS (June 13, 2016); National Minimum Wage of Workers Act, No. 3 of 2016 (Mar. 23, 2016), Sri Lanka Parliament website; Budgetary Relief Allowance of Workers Act, No. 4 of 2016 (Mar. 23, 2016), Sri Lanka Parliament website.)

Act No. 3 also specifies that no employer can reduce the level of wages paid to any employee from the amount paid before the Act came into effect (Act No. 3, art. 4) and that each employer must create and keep for six years a register indicating for each employee the name of the worker, the type of work done, and the amount of wages paid (id. art. 5).

The Minister of Labour and Trade Union Relations, W.D.J. Seneviratne, said that “the ‘National Minimum Wages Act No. 3 of 2016’ is a historic event by which for the first time in the country [a] mandatory national monthly minimum wage was fixed … payable to all workers by all employers in the country.” (SL Enacted Two Significant Laws on Wages Towards Decent Wage Setup – WDJ, supra.)

Seneviratne noted that the adoption of these laws was just a part of the efforts by Sri Lanka to work with the International Labour Organization (ILO) towards a “Decent Work Programme.” The goal of the ILO is for such programs to promote “a job-centered and rights-based approach to development … .” (Id.; “Foreword,” Sri Lanka: Decent Work Country Programme 2013-2017, ILO website.) Other steps taken by Sri Lanka include ratifying ILO Convention 122 on employment policy and creating a road map for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor. (SL Enacted Two Significant Laws on Wages Towards Decent Wage Setup – WDJ, supra; C122 – Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122) (in force from July 15, 1966), ILO website.)