Employers unhappy with law covering foreign workers

Hon. Jenista  Mhagama, MP and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office

TANZANIAN employers have voiced their concerns over the high fees they have to pay to secure and even renew working permits for their foreign employees. The employers say such fees have increased the cost of doing business in the country, urging the government to review them.

They also insist that there are some ‘key’ technical jobs and roles that can be better done by foreigners than locals.

‘We are faced with a heap of challenges which, honestly speaking, continue to make it very complicated to run a business in Tanzania,” stated Dr Aggrey Mlimuka, Executive Director of the Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE).

Opening a seminar for ATE members recently, Dr Mlimuka said although the association was committed to creating more jobs in the country, the existing local business environment made it difficult to do so.

He cited legislation like the Non-Citizens (Employment) Regulations Act of 2015 which, according to him, was extremely unpopular among employers.

“At the risk of being labeled anti-local, we as an association would love to see more relaxed labour and migration laws for foreigners working in the country, vis-à-vis the lack of qualified Tanzanians in specialized fields of work,” he said.

Towards the end of last year, the minister responsible for, among other things, labour and employment, Jenista Mhagama, issued a 14-day notice for local companies engaging foreign workers to ensure that all of them had valid permanent work permits.

She said the government was acting on reports of foreigners working in the country without valid work permits, or using ‘Carry on Temporary Assignment’ (CTA) permits.

“We would like to inform all employers in the country that under the Non-Citizens (Employment) Regulations Act of 2015, only the Labour Commissioner has the authority to issue work permits and no other person,” Mhagama asserted in a public notice published by the local media.
She reminded employers that persevering with foreign workers without valid work permits or holding only ‘Carry on Temporary Assignment’ permits was against the country’s immigration laws.

Said Dr.  Mlimuka: “At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter where the expertise is coming from, since the issue at hand is a committed workforce in general which contributes towards the development of our country.”

The ATE boss also expressed concern over the Skills and Development Levy, saying it was too high compared to other countries within the East African Community.

According to Dr. Mlimuka, ATE has for the past couple of years lobbied for the levy to be further reduced from the current 5 per cent of gross employee salary emoluments. It originally stood at 6 per cent before being pruned to 5 in the 2013/14 financial year.

“We strongly believe that reducing the levy further, say from 5 per cent to 2 per cent, will greatly stimulate compliance and encourage formal business, thereby broadening the tax base,” he said, noting that in Kenya the levy stood at only one per cent while it was non-existent in Uganda.

Another law he cited as needing amendment was the Employment and Labour Relations Act of 2004, particularly in regard to guidelines on how to treat breastfeeding working mothers.

Whereas the law is clear on the duration and frequency of maternity leaves, Dr. Mlimuka said it was still vague on the issue of when mothers should be given time off for breastfeeding and how much time they should be allowed.

He noted that the issue was considered counter-productive by many employers who, as a result, were often hesitant to hire female employees over males.