Understanding Minimum Wage Regulations in Pakistan:

Minimum Wage Definition and Application

The minimum wage is the legally mandated wage below which employers are prohibited from paying their employees. Specific acts and ordinances govern the determination of minimum wage rates in Pakistan. These include:

  1. The Minimum Wages Ordinance, 1961 (Applicable in ICT and Balochistan)
  2. Pakistan Minimum Wages for Unskilled Workers Ordinance, 1969 (No longer in use after the 18th Amendment)
  3. The Minimum Wages Ordinance, 1961 (Adapted in Punjab by the 2012 Amendment Act)
  4. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minimum Wages Act, 2013
  5. Sindh Minimum Wages Act, 2015

According to the Minimum Wages Ordinance 1961, wages encompass all monetary remunerations specified in an employment contract, excluding employer contributions to social insurance, pension or provident funds, travel allowances, special employment-related expenses, annual bonuses, or gratuities upon contract termination. This ordinance applies to employees in industrial establishments, covering skilled, unskilled, apprentices, and domestic workers, but excludes federal or provincial government employees, coalmine workers, and agricultural laborers.

Minimum wages for semi-skilled, skilled, and highly skilled workers are determined by Minimum Wage Boards established under the Minimum Wages Ordinance 1961. Provincial labor departments issue detailed minimum wage notifications for various industries. For example, the Punjab Labor & Human Resource Department has issued notifications specifying minimum wage rates for ministerial, highly skilled, semi-skilled, and skilled workers in 102 industries.

Recent Trends and Adjustments

In recent years, minimum wage adjustments for private sector workers in Pakistan have often been announced alongside federal and provincial budgets rather than on May Day. For instance, in the Federal Budget 2017-18, the minimum wage for private sector workers was increased from PKR 14,000 to PKR 15,000 per month. Subsequently, provincial budgets followed suit by raising minimum wages for unskilled workers to align with the federal government’s increase.

Minimum Wages for Specific Sectors

For specific sectors, such as coal mine workers and newspaper employees, distinct regulations apply. Coal mine workers’ minimum wage rates are determined under the Coal Mines (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Ordinance 1960, often with consultation from Mines Welfare Boards. In the case of newspaper employees, wage rates are determined by Wage Boards, considering factors like the cost of living and industry-specific circumstances.

Provincial Determination and Review

Minimum wages in Pakistan are determined at the provincial level, with each province’s Minimum Wage Board responsible for recommending rates. These boards can fix wage rates even in industries lacking effective wage regulation. The government is empowered to set wage rates for skilled workers as well.

Minimum Wage Adjustments

Section 5(3) of the Minimum Wages Ordinance, 1961, allows Minimum Wage Boards to establish rates for time work, piece work, overtime work, and work on weekly rest days and paid holidays. The rates may be hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. Additionally, the Factories Act 1934 specifies that adult workers cannot work more than 48 hours a week or 9 hours a day.

Regulatory Framework and Enforcement

The Minimum Wages Ordinance 1961 mandates the establishment of Minimum Wage Boards by provincial governments. These boards comprise a chairman, an independent member, an employer’s representative, and a workers’ representative, all appointed by the provincial government. Labor inspectors may be appointed to ensure compliance with minimum wage regulations.

Review and Revision

Minimum Wage Boards can review minimum wage recommendations in the event of economic changes, cost-of-living adjustments, or other relevant factors. However, revisions are often influenced by political considerations, with provinces occasionally raising minimum wages to outdo one another or the federal government.

Components of Minimum Wage

Minimum wage rates may include fixed and variable components, such as dearness allowance, house rent, conveyance allowance, cost of living allowance, and special allowance. These allowances can vary based on circumstances.

Timing of Wage Reviews

According to Section 7 of the Minimum Wages Ordinance, 1961, minimum wage rates are subject to review only after one year and before three years. Exceptions may be made in special circumstances. The government can initiate the wage revision process at any time.

Factors Influencing Wage Adjustments

Wage rates are reviewed in response to changes in economic conditions, cost of living, and other relevant factors. Economic conditions are often interpreted as decent living standards, and cost of living adjustments typically align with changes in consumer prices.

Resources and Regulatory Bodies

The legal framework for minimum wage regulations in Pakistan is based on various statutes and acts, including the Minimum Wages Ordinance, 1961; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minimum Wages Act, 2013; Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1973; and the Coal Mines (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Ordinance, 1960.

To ensure compliance and address grievances, labor inspectors, government-appointed authorities, and collective bargaining agents play crucial roles in enforcing minimum wage regulations and addressing worker concerns.

Note: Information cited from §4-6 of the Minimum Wages Ordinance, 1961; §4-6 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minimum Wages Act, 2013; §10-12 of the Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1973; §3-5 of the Coal Mines (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Ordinance, 1960.

 

Understanding the Evolution of Minimum Wage Rates in Pakistan Over the Years In the realm of labor rights and economic policy, tracking the historical progression of minimum wages in Pakistan offers valuable insights. Below, we delve into the changes in minimum wage rates for unskilled workers over the past few years, highlighting key government announcements and their impacts.

Minimum Wage in Pakistan for Unskilled Workers in 2017-2018

In May 2017, during the announcement of the Federal Budget for 2017-18, Federal Finance Minister Mr. Ishaq Dar increased the minimum wage for unskilled workers in Islamabad Capital Territory from Rs. 14,000 to Rs. 15,000 per month, effective July 2017. Simultaneously, Punjab’s Finance Minister, Dr. Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, raised the minimum wage to Rs. 15,000 in the province. However, no such wage hike was proposed in Sindh. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Finance Minister, Mr. Muzaffar Said, mirrored the federal decision, setting the minimum wage at Rs. 15,000 monthly from July 2017. Balochistan also followed suit, with unskilled private sector workers receiving a minimum wage of Rs. 15,000 per month, as announced by the Adviser to the Chief Minister for Finance. Azad Jammu and Kashmir also proposed increasing the minimum wage to Rs. 15,000 per month.

Minimum Wage in Pakistan for Unskilled Workers in 2016-2017

In the preceding year, Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Shahbaz Sharif declared an increase in the minimum wage rate from Rs. 13,000 to Rs. 14,000 monthly, effective July 2016. Finance Minister Dr. Ayesha Ghaus Pasha reiterated this announcement. In June 2016, the Federal Finance Minister, Mr. Ishaq Dar, also raised the minimum wage rate for unskilled workers in Islamabad Capital Territory to Rs. 14,000 monthly. Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan mirrored these decisions in their budgets for 2016-17.

Minimum Wage in Pakistan for Unskilled Workers in 2015-2016

In June 2015, the Federal Government increased the minimum wage for unskilled workers from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 13,000 monthly. The Provincial Governments of Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan echoed this decision. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, had set its minimum wage at Rs. 12,000 per month in 2014 for unskilled and juvenile workers (14 to 17 years old), and it remained the same in 2015. The minimum wage rates for unskilled and juvenile workers in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and Islamabad Capital Territory were set at Rs. 13,000 per month, effective from July 2015. The daily minimum wage for an 8-hour workday was also established at Rs. 500.

It’s important to note that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had initially set a higher minimum wage of Rs. 15,000 per month in 2014, but the Peshawar High Court suspended this decision in March 2015. Subsequently, the province revised the minimum wage to Rs. 12,000 in September 2015, effective July 2014. In January 2016, another notification was issued, setting the minimum wage at Rs. 13,000, effective July 2015.

This historical overview highlights the dynamic nature of minimum wage policies in Pakistan, reflecting government decisions and regional variations over time.

Payment Frequencies

Wages can be disbursed on various schedules: daily, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. However, it’s vital to note that a wage period cannot extend beyond one month. The guidelines for wage payments are laid out in the Payment of Wages Act 1936 and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Payment of Wages Act 2013. Here are the key provisions:

  1. For establishments like factories, railways, or industrial/commercial entities with fewer than 1,000 employees, wages must be paid within seven days from the end of the wage period.
  2. Larger establishments employing more than 1,000 workers can delay wage disbursement up to the 10th day after the end of the wage period.
  3. Wages must be paid on working days and in current coin or currency notes, meaning payments by check are not permitted under the law.

Ensuring compliance with these regulations or making necessary amendments is crucial to uphold workers’ rights, as per their employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements. Notably, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Payment of Wages Act specifies payment through scheduled banks, with details pending in the Rules. Additionally, employers must display wage payment schedules in a conspicuous place at or near the main entrance of their establishments, providing advance notice for at least two months.

Sources: §3-6 of the Payment of Wages Act 1936; §3-6 of the Payment of Wages Act 1936, adapted by Punjab in 2014; §3-6 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Payment of Wages Act, 2013; Rule 8 of the Payment of Wages Rules 1960

Deductions & Fines

The Payment of Wages Act permits specific deductions from an employee’s wages, including:

  1. Fines
  2. Deductions for unauthorized absence from duty (with exceptions for women and workers under 15)
  3. Deductions for damages or loss of entrusted goods or money due to employee neglect
  4. Deductions for employer-provided housing accommodation or authorized amenities/services
  5. Deductions for recovery of advances or overpayment
  6. Deductions for income tax
  7. Court or authority-ordered deductions
  8. Deductions for approved Provident Funds, cooperative societies, or authorized schemes
  9. Deductions with written authorization for government-approved war-saving schemes

Some provinces, like Punjab, allow deductions for housing accommodation and transport facilities, subject to agreements between workers and employers. However, in places like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, non-statutory allowances and welfare facilities cannot offset minimum wage rates.

Fines imposed on employees must be specified and approved by the government, with notices displayed prominently. The total fine in a wage period should not exceed 3% of the worker’s wages and must be collected as a lump sum within 60 days of the violation. Importantly, fines cannot be imposed on workers under 15.

Sources: §7-13 of the Payment of Wages Act 1936; §3-6 of the Payment of Wages Act 1936, adapted by Punjab in 2014; §7-13 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Payment of Wages Act, 2013; Rule 10-16 of the Payment of Wages Rules 1962; Minimum Wage Notifications 2015

Penalties for Violation

Non-compliance with minimum wage rates or rates lower than government standards can lead to penalties outlined in relevant laws.

Publication of Wages & Maintenance of Registers

To ensure transparency, governments must widely publicize minimum wage rates. Employers may also be required to display these rates prominently in the workplace.

Employers must maintain several registers, including Wage Registers, wage slip issuance in authorized formats, and Muster Rolls. Workers can file claims for arrears within six months of non-payment of minimum wages.

Additionally, the West Pakistan Payment of Wages Rules 1962 necessitate the maintenance of various registers, such as fines, deductions, wages, and advances, with an annual return submission to the Chief Inspector of Factories before February 12th each year, detailing penalties and deductions for contract breaches or damages.

By adhering to these regulations, employers and employees can ensure fair and legal employment practices.