Addressing workplace harassment

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             A Draft revision of the Law on Labor of Mongolia, which was amended 24 times since its enactment in 1999, is being discussed by Parliament. Most people enter into an employment relationship in order to work and earn a living. In this sense, the revised version of the law has vast implications on life in Mongolia, and impacts everyone.

Lawmakers identified the need to revise the law in line with the current state of the labor market, labor relations, and international norms and trends.

According to a National Statistics Office report in 2018, 86.2 percent of enterprises and organizations have up to nine employees, while 17.6 percent of workers or 220,000 people work in the informal sector.

Therefore, the employment conditions of employees of small and medium enterprises and organizations, as well as the salaries and working hours of those working in the informal sector should be regulated by law, and they should be free from discrimination. The bill provides for the protection of fundamental rights, such as protection from sexual harassment. It also details the concept of forced labor.

The basic principles, fundamental rights and terminology of labor relations need to be harmonized with eight international labor conventions and recommendations to which Mongolia has acceded since 1999. It is also necessary to improve the effectiveness of legal regulation, to expand the scope of the Labor Law, and to regulate the newly established tripartite employment relations in the labor market, part-time work, domestic service workers, assistant herders, and employees working in remote areas in accordance with their specifics.

The current Labor Law regulates relations arising from employment contracts. The bill initiators believe that the law centralizes the power to resolve labor disputes in court and limits parties' ability to reach an agreement. Therefore, employers continue to employ workers without an employment contract, they believe. In other words, employees are unable to exercise their rights protected by the law. In addition, the resolution of labor disputes is time-consuming and costly, making it difficult for employers and employees.

Since Mongolia's transition from a centrally-planned economy to a market economy, many major changes have taken place in Mongolia's economic, social, and labor markets. In particular, labor relations are expanding in terms of form and content, and new methods and trends are emerging. For example, new forms of employment are being introduced, such as part-time employment, remote work.

The lack of a legal framework to regulate these new employment relations has led to the loss of citizens' interests, misunderstandings in employment relations, and lack of accountability of those involved. Therefore, there is a need to
legalize these types and forms of employment, highlight lawmakers.

Several key regulations are included in the draft revision being discussed by Parliament. The bill is aimed at expanding the regulatory framework of the Labor Law, redefining the legal features of employment relations, establishing basic norms of employment relations, and improving the standards and regulations set forth in the legislation. Within this framework, the
draft includes new provisions to define labor and social issues within a business entity and organization, to establish internal norms by agreement between employers and employees, to resolve labor interest and rights disputes, and for part-time work.

In particular, part-time workers will work less than 40 hours a week. In accordance with the draft revision, they have the same rights and responsibilities as a full-time employee. It stipulates that employment contract shall specify work days, start and end time, and working hours per week.

The bill also defines the relationship between an employer and an employee as an “employment relationship” and the relationship between a trade union and employers and government agencies as a “collective labor relationship”. The working group added the principles of “ensuring social partnership” and “guaranteeing freedom of labor” to the principles of labor relations. They believe that in accordance with the law, it is necessary to create conditions for employers, employees and their representatives to follow the basic principles of labor relations during implementation of employment agreements, and collective bargaining agreements.

The bill deals with the legal regulation of the establishment, change, termination of employment relations, employment contracts and new relations in the labor market. In addition, arrangements for temporary transfer, rotation, retention of an employee's job, suspension of work or duties, reinstatement, termination of employment, mass dismissal, severance pay and handover of employment are stated in the bill.

In practice, it is common for an employer to require an employee to provide many documents related to his or her information in order to establish an employment relationship. Therefore, confiscation of ID cards and passports is prohibited in connection with the job.

Chapter 5 of the draft revision sets out the principles, composition and system arrangements for remuneration as follows. The working group revised the principles for setting salaries, added regulations to reduce government involvement in wage setting. Particularly, an employer is obliged to provide its employees with written information on a monthly basis, including salaries and legal deductions.

It provides for overtime work, night hours, public holidays, weekends, vacation and labor holidays. In case of dismissal of a disabled person, a pregnant woman or a woman with a child under three years of age, idle time, reduced working hours, and violation of labor standards, the amount of compensation shall be determined by law and other benefits. Compensation shall
be agreed by parties in a collective agreement and internal norms. Special arrangements will be made for part-time workers and assistant herders.

The draft revision stipulates that one-time compensation from employer will be provided for families of employees who have suffered from industrial accidents, acute poisoning, or occupational diseases and died as a result, and if two or more are granted, it shall be determined by the collective agreement and other internal norms.

It also contains provisions that are not included in the current law, such as legalizing the maximum and minimum number of hours of work for employees working in remote areas away from home in the mining sector, and regulating part-time work and annual leave.

Chapter 8 deals with the employment of certain groups of the population, such as women, minors, the disabled and the elderly. The prevent discrimination against women in employment, the regulation on approving the list of prohibited
jobs for women should be removed, and the minimum working age for minors should be adjusted in accordance with ILO Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age.

Chapters 9 and 10 of the draft classify labor disputes as interests and rights disputes and provide arrangements to enable them to be resolved at an early stage and reduce costs. In particular, the draft stipulates that labor disputes should be
resolved through consensus, followed by labor intermediaries and labor arbitration, and that strikes should be organized as a last resort.

In addition, the rights and responsibilities of labor brokers and arbitrators are regulated in detail, and the organization in charge of labor issues is required to register a qualified person in the centralized registry of brokers. If an employment
relationship has been terminated illegally or an employee has been wrongfully transferred to another job, the employee shall be able to file a complaint to one of the business entity's labor rights dispute commissions, conciliators or courts.

Business entities and organizations will have a commission to settle labor disputes, and labor rights disputes will be resolved by the commission, tripartite labor dispute settlement committee and the court.

The draft revision of the Law on Labor also provides for disciplinary action to reduce employee's base salary by 20 percent for up to three months.

Misheel Lkhasuren