Thailand: Respecting Workers’ Rights

Human rights continue to keep the pressure on Thailand’s fishing industry, as forced labour and exploitation claims get increasing exposure.

Human rights groups continue to report of coercive labour practices in Thailand, in particular, in the fishing industry. In 2015, the European Union (“EU”) raised a yellow flag on Thailand’s illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing problems.

Three years on, the spotlight remains on Thailand’s fishing industry as Thailand continues to remain on the European Union’s watch list. Measures to protect workers’ rights remain inadequate, as workers continue to face harsh labour conditions.

Findings from a survey by the Thai Civil Society’s Coalition for Sustainable and Ethical Seafood (CSO Coalition) reveal the widespread lack of workers’ protection:

  • 1 in 5 workers in the fishing industry is required to work longer than 14 hours per day
  • 92% of the workers have to work overtime for more than 5 hours before and after going out to sea

Exploitation claims in the fishing industry serve as a reminder for employers to be mindful of worker’s rights. In ensuring that workers are accorded their minimum protection, employers should be mindful of the following requirements which apply in Thailand:

Minimum wages

Under Thailand’s Labour Protection Act (“LPA”), the Wage Committee has the power to make minimum wage orders. These orders have been made on a province-by-province basis and are not consistent nationally. From 1 April 2018, the minimum wage ranges from THB308 to THB330 per day (up from THB300 to THB310 per day).

Working hours and rest periods

An employee’s working hours must not exceed eight hours per day and 48 hours per week (or seven hours per day and 42 hours per week where the nature of the work is hazardous). In general, an employee is entitled to a break of at least one hour after five hours of work, unless otherwise agreed to the benefit of the employee.

Overtime

Thai regulations prescribe that overtime must not exceed 36 hours per week. When overtime work lasts for two hours or more, the employee is generally entitled to a rest period of at least 20 minutes before the employee starts to work overtime (excluding work which is of a continuous nature or type and which the employee consents to perform, or which is urgent).

Key takeaways

The reputational risks are obvious where human rights issues are raised. In seeking to build sustainable businesses, employers should ensure that not only are they compliant with local labour laws, but that their supply chain is also clean, keeping a watchful eye on the working conditions of the factories and business with which they contract.

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Filed under Jurisdiction: Asia, Working hours (including holiday, sick leave, overtime, rest breaks), Workplace Health and Safety

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