Mauritius, will the Tiger wake-up?

tigerThe long-awaited annual budget presentation has finally revealed its secrets. Many were waiting the finance minister’s to stumble but he didn’t, fortunately. I do not have any political preferences but I need to say that Pravind Jugnauth, in my opinion, succeeded rather brilliantly. This has definitely something to do with the competent advisers he has hired. Real grey matter with proven track records. Let me just salute Gerard Sanspeur. The gentleman requires no introduction; he has headed several institutions and brought them to new dimensions, the Board of Investment is a clear example.

Through this budget, Government plans to revamp paradise-island.

I won’t, in this article, provide you with an in-depth analysis. I believe that there are several publications in this line and written by more competent people than me. As usual I’ll contend myself in expressing my opinion on the overall measures announced.

Finding the right mix of social and finance has always been a tricky business. It’s never enough for the social and the finance always moans at any surplus expenses made. The Finance Minister seems, at first glance, to have found the best compromise between the two. His speech has left more positives than negatives; the after-taste is not so bad, at least for now.  I personally have never heard the Opposition Leader expressing satisfaction on a Finance Minister’s budget exercise, but this time it happened. The different measures announced were coherent with the overall strategy of the budget, confirming that this exercise benefit from the contributions of a certain expertise. Good!

The governing line of the budget was : Creating a new Era for Development. A sound strategy which lies on a multi-fold approach to an objective; that of improving the lives of Mauritians. A collection of ideas and actions that intend to create a nation of entrepreneurs in an economy based on technology, innovation and export. Of course, such an objective can only be met through implementation of several measures which are directly and indirectly related. It includes, for instance: reducing procedural hassles in business creation, improvement to infrastructure, access to finance, and so on. I’m happy to note that budget did take into account all those ‘indirect’ elements as opposed to previous ‘big’ ideas with no heads or tails which I’m so used to.

Creating a nation of entrepreneurs is not a simple task. It cannot be done without the appropriate legal framework, infrastructure and proper mindset.  The legal framework, if too cumbersome, acts as a deterrent to any brilliant business idea. Mauritius already offers one of the best legal frameworks for business setting-up and management; all streamlined into simple procedures and no heavy regulations. By proposing to further enhance the ease of doing business, the Minister has shown sensible reasoning. Concrete measures which are designed to further help SMEs breathe. This includes elimination of all Trade Licenses for those paying Rs5,000 or less, and this for the next 3 year, financing from banks or institutions at high preferential rates, easier access to finance, and tax holiday ranging from 4 to 8 years.  Licensing procedures will know major changes with a view to allow quick business creations.  New: Government will now enforce ‘process time limits’ to regulatory bodies.

Foreigners investing in Mauritius are not neglected. Those who want to set-up their business and invest in Mauritius are welcomed. Residence permit procedures will also know some positive changes, with new (and realistic) conditions.  The investor will no longer be required to register his company prior to apply for an Investor occupation permit. He can obtain an ‘agreement in principle’ or some kind of letter of intent from the authorities before moving to register his company and proceed with investment.

Real estate sector is also called to some changes.  Foreigners who want to acquire immovable property in Mauritius for business purposes will be able to do so without much hassle. Companies where foreign shareholding is less than 25% can buy directly, without formal authorization from the Prime Minister’s Office. All these cannot but inject dynamism in the economy.

 

The ICT sector will also be taken care of.  Government plans to invest massively in the uplifting of current infrastructure, precisely connectivity.  Optical fiber will be a reality around the island. E-commerce, which has not known a real take-off, will be addressed. The Government will lead by example, in offering around 50 e-services to the population. Connectivity and infrastructure are two essential elements and I’m glad to know that our leaders understand this.  Our young and ‘to-be’ nerds are encouraged to launch themselves into the coding and mobile apps development sector. Time to unveil those talents.  Digital age will really take a visible shape if all these are truly implemented.

Overall, the budget announces a new era. It allows for development of a digital culture, provides encouragement to young talents in the ICT sector and implements a coherent (and realizable) strategy to make Mauritius a real cyber island. Beyond that, the island is expected to sustain its status as a world class destination, for its people and for foreigners who choose it as business or retirement destination. The budget is definitely an interesting one; in substance but it’s interesting also to see how many of these plans will actually be implemented and when.

I can only hope that this is not simply a set of announcements.

The Tiger of Indian Ocean can finally wake up and take control of its destiny.

http://www.gibsonandhills.com

 

 

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Posted in Business, Economics, Employment, Immigration, Investment, Mauritius, politics, Tax, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Smart Cities in Mauritius, the trap?

Smart CityI often think about the excessive importance given to the real estate industry of Mauritius. Ever since the introduction of schemes to attract foreign expertise and capital, many have thought that foreigners are queuing up to secure a piece of land in Paradise Island.  No, not everyone is in a rush to go to paradise. Sad observation, but true in every sense.

I believe that real estate industry cannot sustain long term strategy with regards to foreign capital and neither can this sustain economic growth on the medium or long term. I was a bit surprised, and I was not the only one, that the new government could not find anything better than to come up with another foreign investment oriented real estate scheme to boost our economy. I’m referring to the Smart City scheme which has recently appeared.

Smart city has a sexy approach, an underlying statement that it shall (finally) help improve the lives of Mauritians. Unlike IRS/RES schemes, the City will be a living space for all of us. It will be ‘Smart’, meaning modern, ecological and sophisticated – everything to please. But still, I’m not convinced.  The way it is, I’m pretty sure that this will end up in the same fashion like IRS/RES villa, unless we bring fundamental changes to the whole country.

Government wants to implement Smart Cities to boost the economy and bring some fresh air to the socio-economic environment. Fine. However, we should be realistic enough to know that these Cities would only fulfill their role on the short or medium term. Once the sites are completed, we will be back to square one, with added burdens; filling the building, giving life to the cities and sustaining their economic functions. These burdens cannot be offloaded until and unless major changes are brought to the island in general.  After construction, there are several equations to be solved; the first one being ‘who will occupy the Smart Cities’?  This equation, in itself, leads to several other questions and issues that need attention.  The mere act of building cities does not sustain any economic ambition, unless we believe we are Ramzan Kadyrov and building fictitious cities is enough to make us happy.

PpowerMauritians, in general, are not waiting any smart cities to have a primary residence.  The problem lies neither in the supply nor in the demand. The problem lies in purchasing power. Besides the elite, no one is really able to afford a new dwelling in today’s circumstances. Had it been the case, all those new apartments & residential complexes would have found their owners and not left unoccupied (or even unattended) by now.  Some, initially nice buildings, are now eyesores. The twin towers of Elypsis are like huge (and sad) ghosts, dressed in white, staring right at you… This is one example. IRS and RES villas are crying in their desperate quest of occupants.  As mentioned earlier, not every foreigner is queuing up to find a place in paradise. All those residential units were tailor-made to welcome foreigners; Mauritians were considered as second-class citizens by promoters. We were not part of the formula, never (it’s useless to even try convincing me on this!).  Besides promoters, even those small sugar-cane land-owners refused to sell their (otherwise worthless) lands to Mauritians, in the greed and wait of Dollars & Euros. We all suddenly believed that the island was a new world real estate Eldorado and people would rush to us with their money. I never believed in this, still don’t and I was right.  All this illusion, based on the value of our real estate, messed up the whole industry.  Overestimation of prices, over-confidence, and exaggerated expectations.

I often argued that the IRS/RES would fail because besides these buildings, the country offered nothing interesting to buyers.  High net worth people require good casinos, nice roads and entertainment. They don’t need houses or ocean views (unless they can show off their yacht to fellow high net worths). Our casinos are probably the only ones in the world to reckon financial loss!  All the luxury villas have price tags that are similar to villas in California. We are in Mauritius, for God Sake!

It all comes to one point: Mauritius need to offer a complete package besides concrete walls if the country wants to attract capital owners of the world.  A quick glance at our internet connection (speed & price ratio) leaves a very nasty aftertaste, a dark side of the self-proclaimed ‘Cyber Island’.  The cosmetic measures will not work unless we apply a comprehensive strategy. So far this has not been the case.

Similar results can be expected from Smart Cities. At this stage, we only heard that brand new cities (it’s like having a smartphone but no money to
buy subscription or a SIM card) will appear in some places, 5 of them already earmarked (to my knowledge) and in advance state of….paperwork. Five huge sites will definitely create jobs and give a push to some industry sectors, over and above the construction and real estate industry. Honestly, the sweet part will last only as long as construction is in process. What happens to these cities after construction? An easy equation: 25% of the properties will be reserved for Mauritians. How do you expect them to acquire such property when banks are operating a mafia style system where only those sweet to them can get loans and facilities?  No, this is not an exaggeration; broke guys and crooks happen to get huge loans with tiny interest rates and exemption from questions and heavy paperwork. And they are not even acquire a primary residence, the basic needs of a human being. This is fact.  When middle class family request a housing loan, the paperwork and investigation is so bulky that it can frustrate CIA agents. So no, the 25% reserved in smart cities will again to the elite of the country, those having the right names and right contacts.

Now let’s talk about the remaining 75%. Normally this is addressed to foreigners. This puts another question on the table: what these foreigners are expected to do in Mauritius ? All of them will not invest, many will take up employment in an already complex unemployment situation. So here comes frustration, anger and ….looming not too far is xenophobia. Are we just trying to repeat the history of South Africa or Zimbabwe here?  Will our future generation not cry revenge and congratulate itself for violent actions in view of snatching back lands lost to foreigners? No, I’m not a lunatic person. Facts again: our port area will soon be flourishing under petro-Dollars.  Foreign promoters will take over our port region, develop and manage it.  There are plans to acquire state-owned companies which are actually handling these. Second project: our government will soon be relegated to a tenant role, handing the landlords role to, again, petro-Dollar owners. Yes government will leave its historical buildings in Port Louis to rent buildings in the Heritage City to be built by Dubai promoters. I just hope I’m wrong and that my children won’t live in a foreign owned country.

Would it not make better sense if the same enthusiasm is showed in developing special industrial or technological zones to promote entrepreneurs? Would it not sustain productivity and economic growth as compared to building cities with no real economic objectives other than that of boosting the construction sector?

Our youngsters are already in a social coma. Drugs, alcohol, unemployment, violence and lethargy is hitting theme in the face. Add all this to the prevailing frustration caused by the visible sign of wealth demonstrated arrogantly by some foreigners. An example: our newly qualified accountants cannot compete with the increasing number of foreign accountants settling down on the island. These foreigners leave their country, where they apparently could not succeed, to eat the ‘already small’ share of our market. One part of this market is foreign investors creating their businesses on the island. These foreign accountants position themselves in way that no Mauritians get access to foreigners relocating to Mauritius. Some even request in writing ‘Mauritians are not reliable, talk to your fellow citizen’. So how do we see a brilliant future here when we are all aware of the number of students taking chartered accountancy exams every 6 months on the island?

balanceIt all comes down to balance. There should be equilibrium everywhere. There should be a minimum protection and equal playing fields set in all areas. Similar to what is applied in the tourism sector, foreign capital and expertise should be allowed but based on ‘protection’ strategy where the rights and talents of Mauritian professionals are not handicapped. The idea is to introduce a selective immigration process for real business people and eliminate those who think that Mauritius is an unexplored land, filled with incompetent people.  Accountants or lawyers trying to relocate should be subject of heavy investigation as to why they leave larger markets to set base in a tiny island and relegate themselves to a tiny market. They should not be lauded straight away but put to test. This is not discriminatory but will help prevent xenophobia from touching our shores in the future when frustration will give our youngsters a reason to rebel.

With our excess enthusiasm on property development we are just sending the wrong message that Mauritius is beautiful and that anybody can get a share of it with the right amount of money in their pocket. Except words, I can’t see any effort in nurturing the talents of our people. Sustainable development comes from investment in younger generation, in the believing in their abilities and giving them the tools & instruments to contribute towards the success of our country.

So for me Smart City is a trap that will close itself on us in some years. By that time the government will change and those who took the decisions will not be held accountable – but will surely be richer than what they are today.

 I hope, again, that I’m wrong and time will tell a different story.

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How to get an Investor Occupation Permit in Mauritius

 

20160101_175600 (3)Mauritius is an excellent destination; either for short or long term.  One of the top performing economies of Africa, the island is viewed as a very interesting business jurisdiction as it offers a set of modern and simple features for business creation and management. Beyond the cliché of a ‘low tax’ jurisdiction, the island has lots to offer. For instance, investors can get residency permit under specific scheme called Occupation Permit.

Besides business incentives, Mauritius is one of the best places to live on earth. Breathtaking natural beauty and stability at all levels, whether its climatic, political or social.  The island is known for its welcoming population which is itself a blend of cultures from different areas of the world – living in perfect peace and harmony.  The quality of life and the business environment makes Mauritius one of the favourite destinations for those who want to relocate to a peaceful and safe country, while still enjoying an avant-garde business environment.

In every relocation project, residency permit is an essential element. Mauritius makes no exception, but facilitates things through different schemes, addressed to almost every category of foreigner choosing paradise island as their new home. Practically anyone who wants to set base on the island is able to do so. However, we have been intelligent enough to bring an almost selective approach, opening the doors further to holes of capital and expertise. So do you go about obtaining a residency permit for you and your family?

Every residency permit has a base. This is the foundation on which your permit shall rest. It can be investment / business, employment, profession, retirement, studies and also marriage. The first element pushes your residency procedure in the appropriate category (or scheme) and from there you have to respect the specific conditions attached. As mentioned earlier, Mauritius opened its doors to foreigners, but in a rather selective and prudent fashion.

For this article, we will focus on the residency scheme available to investors relocating to Mauritius. Investors may elect for a residency permit under the Occupation Permit scheme. There are three categories of Occupation Permit: Investor, Self-employed, Professional and Retired Non-Citizens. The applications and processing are done through the Board of investment. However the deciding and issuing authority is the passport and Immigration office, acting under the Prime Minister’s office. The Board of Investment acts as a one-stop-shop to coordinate and facilitate (?) foreign investment in the country.

Foreigners who want to invest in Mauritius are able to apply and obtain Occupation permits based on certain that their business needs to satisfy.

To get this permit, the following conditions should be met:

  1. Show a minimum investment of USD100,000 (Notice the word ‘Show’)
  2. Present financial forecasts with a minimum turnover of MUR4 million a year for the next five years.

There are many underlying statements which you will not find on official documentation or websites. You might read and understand that it is easy to get an Occupation Permit. Websites and official documentations are clear: you are literally invited to Mauritius. However, the reality on the ground is different.  Let’s not be on the abstract side. Below is a step-by-step account of procedures you need to follow, as an investor.

First you need to have your company already incorporated and it only after that you can start your permit application procedures. Every company shall have at least one resident director. At the time of incorporation you are not resident, which means you need to find a resident director to fit the law. Bear in mind that you are not required to have a shareholder for this purpose, unless the business industry and licensing requirements specifically ask for this (Eg: in some tourism businesses).

Second (this is clearly mentioned), you need to have your USD100,000 already transferred to your Mauritian company’s bank account.

Having a bank account means that there are several other formalities you ought to undertake; for example obtaining your Trade licence from the municipality (or District council for rural regions) where your business will be situated. To get the trade licence, you need to present your rent agreement, the building permit (BLP) of the building, ID card of the owners and a series of other documents. You see where I’m coming from? Sounds complicated, and it is for those who are not familiar to local procedures.

To recap, here are the steps prior to even apply for the permit:

  • Have your company incorporated
  • Choose your location, battle with the owner and have your rent agreement signed
  • Bring all papers to the municipality and get your Trade Licence
  • Bring Trade Licence and company documents to the bank and open your bank account
  • Wire transfer your USD100,000 to the bank account

Now, all this implies that you are present in Mauritius, paying your accommodation and foods while making all these happen. We are not expecting any unexpected things here (the building may not fit the purpose for the authorities, for instance). Let’s hope for the best. Time wise, if everything is right, we are referring to these delays:

  • 1 week for company formation, including several trips to Port Louis
  • Xxx days to identify the right business location
  • Xxx to finalise a rent agreement & get the actual papers
  • 1,2 weeks to get your company’s bank account

In the meantime, you also need to tackle the business plan write up and financial forecasts. The Board of investment has provided a guideline to help those not familiar with this type of document. But again, are you really aware of the realities of Mauritius and can you reasonably pretend to write a coherent business plan for a business on a new land? Anyway, let us assume you replied ‘yes’.

Once the above are completed, you need to

  1. Undertake your medical tests (Full list available on request),
  2. Get the doctor sign the required forms,
  3. Ask your bank to issue an office cheque for government fees
  4. Take nice passport photos
  5. Have all your original birth certificates and other documents ready
  6. Have all your company documents ready.

Personal documents are : original birth certificate (whole family) and marriage certificate, original academic qualifications (diplomas, etc.), your CV, and any other documents that prove your identity, your relationship with those presented as your dependents and also your track record so far.

Scan all the above and file through the online system of the Board of Investment and  ensure you have input the desired date and time of appointment . Once appointment is confirmed, take all originals and 1 copy to file the physical application.

Now the tricky part, you are allowed 120 days of business visa in a year. You can only apply for an Occupation Permit while on a business visa. In general it means that you have 120 days to complete all the above, if you want to do it yourself. And if Foreignjobeverything goes as planned. Did I mention that this is also the time you are expected to search for a new house, a new vehicle and find a suitable school for that little angel? How about your pet; is your friend still blocked somewhere in the absence of a proper import permit?

We have been in this field for more than 20 years now and we can save you time and money. First, we can handle your company incorporation remotely, before you even land in Mauritius. We will provide you with a nominee director (with a specific contract de voiding him or all rights and powers in your business and a resignation letter that will be activated once you become resident). And then, we help you avoid the sensible issue of finding, hastily, a business premises. Your registered office address is provided by us and so is your trade Licence (or any other special license that your business requires). Only then you can take your flight to Mauritius, open your bank account (we can even handle this remotely), and transfer your investment.

In meantime, you will already have your business plan ready. And the online application for Occupation Permit already in the electronic circuit at the BOI. You already have a reference number attached to the application,

Next step, reach Mauritius, do your medical tests, get the office cheque for government fees and we are set to meet the BOI. In around 10 workings days, the Passport office issues your occupation permit. At the end of the day, you have all papers in hand and in better mental state to focus on the technical and strategic angles of your business. You don’t even need 120 days on the Island if using our services. Appointing a professional business consultant gives you several advantages during the startup; market intelligence, technical expertise, and other similar competences help you settled down faster and in better dispositions. On the relocation side, we also assist in ensuring the comfort of your family. This includes services like school enrollment for your children, home search, vehicle purchase or rental, connections to utilities like phone and Internet and other similar aspects.

Once the setting-up phase is complete, Gibson & Hills Group can deploy a complete range of services to assist you in different areas of your business. You may visit our website, www.gibsonandhills.com, for an insight.

We will tackle other residency permit in future articles.

If you want to create a business, relocate your existing one or otherwise invest in Mauritius, feel free to contact our team. We will take care of your business and your personal comfort as well.

G&H Logo

 

 

(c) http://www.gibsonandhills.com, May 2016

 

 

Posted in Business, Employment, Immigration, Investment, Mauritius, Tax | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When you’re copied, means you’re good!

Hello readers,

Just a brief note. Something which got me amused.

I came across someone pretending to be expert in Labour Law. Actually they found nothing better than to copy us ‘word-by-word’. Our 2012 content is copied in 2015. Look at the dates below !

NextJob

What’s worst, they don’t even have the competencies to give advice. So many people are publicly given wrong advice in writing…!

Well, thank you again for making us so successful. We will continue to help with sound advice, as far as we can.

All the best guys.

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Good bye 2015, Welcome 2016

Thank you

 

It’s been six long months since the last article was published on this blog. My sincere apologies to all readers. We were kept up on heavy projects that required the mobilization of our whole team. Things have been living, despite the prudence and hesitation that inhibits investors after a change in government. Entrepreneurs usually cannot stay idle for long, they have this necessity to move and make things happen. It is just not possible to sit and observe for too long. True that this time, the observation round took longer than normal. First, because of the aggressive and almost violent way in which the government scrambled down the BAI. Second was the Good Governance and Integrity Bill. Misunderstanding, and somehow fear, was among the feelings prevailing in the business community. Anyway, this is not the subject of our today’s article.

 

2015 was a busy year. We worked on several interesting projects and helped many ideas take shape. Our business creation and management arm participated in the elaboration of many business ventures and subsequently in their implementation. Our expertise was sought in various projects. While most of the projects had a commercial orientation (naturally), we also worked on different orientations: sports & social projects, for example – giving us an extra kick !

 

As usual, we started from scratch, taking the promoter’s idea and then shaping it up for realisation.  This includes, feasibility report (legal, financial and technical studies), legal entity set-up, recruitment up to launching of operations. Thereafter, we continued the collaboration with recurrent services like accounting, VAT, tax, payroll administration, HR management, and so on.  Gibson & Hills Group has, over the years, positioned itself as a one-stop-shop for businesses and businessmen.

 

What have we been doing for the last six months ?   Our teams had to shoulder to important recruitment campaigns. We had to source Mauritian labour for a foreign based group of hotels, done in conjunction with another local player in the recruitment field. Despite being competitors, a strategic partnership was established and the project was handled and completed in a remarkable fashion.

 

Our second campaign involved recruiting over 200 employees for latest world class franchise setting up base in Mauritius. Four world class brands : pizza INn, Chicken Inn, Galitos and Creamy Inn. The campaign was spread over a tight deadline, 2 months. The volume of work and engagement that a recruitment campaign requires is enormous. Without motivation and love for the job, one is drained out fast and the job becomes too tiresome.  We are keeping the tempo, thanks to a wonderful team. Our subsidiary company, Talent Lab Ltd, picked up very fast and is now positioned as serious contender on the recruitment and HR management scene. Led by Adilla Diouman-Mosafeer and her team, Talent Lab Ltd, has been able to confirm its expertise in the HR field. It all proves that the ‘human first’ philosophy we have been applying ever since the creation of Gibson & Hills Group has its merits and, most importantly, remains relevant in this fast-paced materialistic world. We are proud to be part of a campaign which changed the life of hundreds of people and families. Businesses which have the human factor as focal point will always succeed.

 

The popularity of Talent Lab did not please everybody. Success doesn’t please everybody anyway. A subsidiary of a large group of companies sent us a letter claiming that our company name and logo was a copy of theirs; done deliberately to mislead the public. An exagerated statement, but we can understand. Its managing director needs to justify his huge salary package to his Group top management and found nothing more constructive than to blame it on someone else. Our logo was designed in 2007 and came from personal inspiration. I still keep those rough hand drawing and sketches. Never mind, we had a laugh!

 

We are closing this 2015 chapter with a sprint. End of year accounting, tax filings, shareholders meetings and HR management are at boiling point. And as we love challenges, nothing makes this end of year a dull and monotonous experience.

 

We cannot close this last blog for 2015 without conveying our heartfelt thanks to our readers, to YOU. Our articles on Labour laws and regulations caught the attention of many of you. I personally took so much pleasure in replying to thousands of comments and questions. Apologies to those I couldn’t reply, I know I have missed a couple of them. It is a deep feeling of satisfaction to know that this blog brought at least a contribution to the ‘working’ population. We had interesting interactions with both employees and employers and we hope to keep this relationship for the future.  You brought this blog such success that it’s most read article was copied in full by another company. Besides a new company with ‘high-powered’ professionals at the top have found nothing more inspirational than to emulate our digital strategy. Imitation is a sign of success. Again thank you for this !

We will of course have more articles in the same lines in 2016.

The Gibson & Hills Group wishes you all a very Happy New Year. We wish you success, joy and prosperity but above all, we hope that whatever you undertake in 2016 will be driven by passion.
Love what you do and do what you love!

 

http://www.gibsonandhills.com

Thank you

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Foreign jobs, what is really at stake.

Foreignjob

Our series of articles on employment in Mauritius were greeted very warmly by our followers and a lot of people in search of factual information.  We were overwhelmed with comments and queries and hope to have responded to every one of you by now.  Thank you your ongoing trust and support.

We have often discussed employment in Mauritius to help expatriates understand the different aspects of life and work under the sun. The response to our articles on labour laws, made us realise that many Mauritians do not have straight and easy access to such information. We have therefore decided to henceforth include, in our blog, content that will most certainly address the needs of our fellow countrymen.

Today’s subject comes out of a recent event.  Our sister company, Talent Lab Ltd (Facebook: The Talent Lab-Mauritius), recently worked on a major assignment; the recruitment of 100 Mauritians for a new five star Seychelles-based hotel. We lined up our first pool of 100 short listed candidates within just 3 days of posting adverts. The massive inflow of CVs and the way our phone lines were flooded are evidence enough as to how eager people are to move out of Mauritius. We have rarely, if at all, seen such affluence for other job offers.  While some knew exactly what they wanted and had relevant working experience, others seemed deeply seduced by the idea of moving to another country even if what they really expect from such a move was yet to be determined. Expectations aside, only a few seem to realize the risks, uncertainties, and probably the dangers that lie ahead of a professional migration.

We have often heard of cases where exploitation, ill treatment, inhuman working conditions and similar incidents are brought to light.  These risks cannot be totally eliminated upfront as most of the time, illegal conditions are only revealed once the employee is ‘locked’ in a no-return situation, on a foreign land.  The employee is by then uprooted from his or her comfort zone, has normally no recourse or contacts and is left to the mercy of the employer.  All this, in my opinion, is like gambling, where the probability of landing in a ‘nice place’ is high.  But still, if you draw the ‘bad place’ card, it can be catastrophic. The good news is that you can further reduce the probability of drawing the ‘bad place’ card by doing some homework and preparation before starting the game.

Here are some areas where you should focus on while deciding whether or not to take up foreign employment.

The workplace

In most situations, you are not able to assess the quality your future work place when it comes to migration.  For a local job, you would normally do the interview on site, or get information from people already employed by the company (remember we are on an island and somewhere, somehow, somebody knows somebody working for the company). In the case of foreign employment, the only first hand information you will get is most probably found on the company’s website and brochures.  You would probably need to rely on information sent to you by the employer or its agents. How far are these reliable?  Information is, at the end of the day, issued to lure potential candidates, purposely skewed towards the positive side of things.

Other information sources exist but may not be easily accessible. One example is contacting the industry regulatory body of the country in question to ask if the business has the necessary licenses to trade.  But again, is the information sufficient, usable or even reliable?

This is one of the risks when engaging yourself; not knowing exactly and precisely where you’re heading to. Once there, you might probably have no chance to turn back or can only do so at a  (very) high cost. In some cases, your passport may be held under custody of your employer until the end of your contract.  We have seen this in Mauritius over the recent months, so make no mistake, chances of it happening elsewhere are real.

When signing your contract, be sure that there is no clause allowing the employer to withhold your passport. Your passport is your property and cannot be withheld by anybody. Never give formal authorization or hand over this crucial document to anybody. If this is imposed on you, think twice, turn back and head home, unless your freedom is less important than the work.

Work conditions

What you see is not always what you get. What a contract says may not match reality. Once out of your country you are weaker, helpless even. And if bound to a contract, you are almost trapped until the end. What recourse do you have if the work conditions differ from the written contract? Honestly you will be more indulgent to your employer in a foreign land than you normally are in Mauritius. One becomes naturally more tolerant when not in one’s own country, this is fact.  Here you will frown and growl for an unexpected 15 minutes work extension requested by your employer to handle a critical situation.  But when abroad, you will only start ‘feeling the pain’ when the situation gets extremely beyond limit, i.e. when the employer slides dangerously towards exploitation.

If you feel exploited (and you have reasonable grounds to feel so) then the best way is to report the matter to competent bodies. First to the hierarchy and then to the governmental or federal body. The outcome will, of course, depend on all these instituitions being honest and proactive. You might also get in touch with the Mauritian embassy or consulate, if they have a physical presence in there. Reporting will directly put your employment at stake (remember: foreign labour is easily gotten rid of). Or if your employment is safe, what can you expect on the interpersonal front? With your colleagues, your superiors and boss? It can be a little scary to report your employer and stay within his reach, especially when not in your homeland.

The best way is therefore to stop everything, close the chapter and take the next flight back home.  Or find another employer, depending on whether the country allows it or not.  In Mauritius an expatriate cannot switch jobs directly from one employee to another unless the first one gives a formal no-objection letter. In the absence of such clearance the expatriate has to leave country and apply for a new permit under his new employment.

Pay

Salary is the key when it comes to Employment; more so when planning to move out of the country. How far will the employer respect his engagement? You will never know until you receive the first salary. To prepare yourself, check the country’s official documentation addressing pay rates in different industry sectors and employment category. This is a good benchmark to determine whether the salary offered matches the country’s standards. If the pay is equivalent to jobs available in your country, then you should seriously think twice.  The opportunity cost of leaving your homeland is too major if you are getting the same pay elsewhere.

Salary should not be considered as net earnings. You should also have a look at tax rates and other legal contributions that may be deducted from pay. The gross figure may be attractive but what matters is what actually reaches your pocket.  On the same line, check the country’s legislation when it comes to movement of money.  Mauritius does not have exchange controls, which means money movement is not restricted as long as it’s done according to applicable laws. This is not the case in all countries. Your earnings may be trapped, without any possibility for you to enjoy its benefits in back. Salary repatriation is a serious issue and should be tackled at the outset. Make sure that you do your homework and understand the laws of the country with regards to exchange control and movement of funds.

Salary should also match the cost of living in the country you are migrating to. An easy way to examine the differences is to compare like with like. Take common international products and match their prices. A bottle of Coke, KFC burgers, a cup of coffee; choose the items there and match them with the price in local currency. The coffee index is a good benchmark as recently indicated on a BBC documentary.  European workers moving out of their country use this basic indication to assess cost of living.

You may well be earning a lot of money at face value but a high cost of living will quickly prove your pay to be insufficient.

In this first article, I have highlighted some of the aspects of professional relocation and the points which potential candidates have to address. Leaving the comfort of your home is not an easy decision.  We have seen and heard so many cases where fellow citizens end up in delicate (if not miserable) situations on a foreign land.  I have, on too many occasions, heard complaints against Mauritian recruitment agencies. While some have been utterly dishonest in luring local people to dungeons, others are simply blinded by normal limitations.  They simply do not do their homework.  The business of emigration is highly profitable to recruiters, it earns good money – but this does not exempt anybody from being honest.  I once handled a case where an Indian recruitment agency asked for more than Rs200,000 from their citizens, promised them jobs and sent them to Mauritius.  The result was heart breaking: expulsion from the country after expiry of their visa.  One of them felt so dishonored (having ruined the honor and finances of his parents) that he committed suicide on his way back.

This human drama can be avoided if you, as a candidate, educate yourself and do your homework before engaging into any foreign-based employment.  Often, employees do not understand the risks and dangers of foreign employment; naturally the only one they then blame (and possibly get amends from) is the local recruitment agency.  Agencies indeed have the duty to do their homework too and ascertain that the job (and employer) offers appropriate terms and conditions of work to the norms of the country.

Agencies, in their quest for business, will not necessarily provide negative information to candidates –in fear of reducing their pipe line.  Little, in this business, do we see in terms of humanity taking over financial consideration (well, this is honestly very common everywhere now!).  Having been in the relocation business, advising and helping foreigners to relocate to Mauritius for more than 20 years, I understand and feel the ‘human factor’ behind each and every such move.  We are handling people’s dreams, family ties, ambitions and all these cannot be narrowed down to a simple financial operation.

The last thing, I would want to see is for any of my fellow countrymen to end up in a miserable situation in some part of the world.  There are many of ours enjoying very comfortable workplaces around the globe. As I mentioned earlier, the probability that you land in such a situation is very high. The problem lies within the dark side which, even in a lesser proportion, does sadly exist.  The Internet is a massive source of information. Communication is easy and affordable through emails. Use all the means possible to get relevant, appropriate and sufficient information on any job offer, potential employer and the country’s employment rules.  Do not get blinded by offers in Dollars or Euros. Assess the pay-work ratio and very importantly, weigh the opportunity costs of going against staying back in your homeland.

A Phoenix beer with your ‘l’armée sec’ is worth much more than the most exquisite champagne in a crowd of unknown faces.

(C) www.gibsonandhills.com

25 June 2015

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The rise of public tempo (Creole translation: Nissa la monter)

The general elections are at our door-steps. The population is holding its breath…and its frustrations. The common man gets a sense of his importance now, like he does every 5 years. From the tip of his pencil on polling day, the fate of some will hang. The common man, voter for one day, will decide on whether the actual government will walk through a third mandate or whether a new team will be elected. A ‘new team’ so to say, but still composed of the same dinosaurs who have reigned on the political scene for decades. Change, wherever it occurs, always bring its dose of uncertainty. You can always blame or congratulate past performance, but in the unknown lie some strange feelings: fear, doubt, hope… The common Mauritian is called to vote – general elections are on 10 December 2014.
Many of the expatriates living on paradise island will be living this experience for the first time. Foreign investors may have some apprehension (justified) with regards to the security of their investment. Questions are normal at this stage. This is a strange period where nothing apparently functions in the public sector. I thought of writing this article to bring a different view of the landscape to my expatriate friends and help you to understand, from my perspective, what to expect. This article is more on the folklore….not on the technical (and dirty) side of politics.
There is no political school of thought on the island. No right or left wing, no republicans or democrats. Here it is just a simple question of alliances. Which pair will go to Church, which party will rather go for a threesome… which ones need a divorce? It’s more of a soap opera or a sports match, providing decent entertainment to a country where the leisure industry is not really happening. Like in every sports team, you have some die-hard fans who are naturally deficient of thinking abilities. They are glued to one party, whether it does well or not is not even a matter of the slightest concern. Then you have the volatile electors, a minority. Those who really think and cast their vote according to their judgment and appreciation of a party’s manifesto and programme. In Mauritius it is this minority who decides in whose hands power will move to. The born-without-a-brain diehard fans will accept anything from their parties; supernatural alliances, transmutations and transformations (Eg: abrupt sega-dancer hormones suddenly appear in a minister’s body). It is very unfortunate to see a lot of people who usually are filled with common sense suddenly turn into die-hard fans during a political context. This is not a football match, it is the country’s future at stake! Anyway, you have to have brains to understand this, a lot don’t.
They usually are present in every political meeting. With their ravanes and dholoks, dancing and singing. They do not even pay attention to the speakers (their Gods and angels) on the microphone. Once they hear a change of tone, they will usually jubilate with some olés – like automated puppets (which they really are). They will vote the same party and it usually goes down from one generation to the other in their families. I guess brain-deficiency is a genetic problem that can walk down generations. On our island, the leisure industry is a poor child; where it is available it is generally for tourists – expensive or irrelevant to locals. Just to say that the lack of decent leisure gives elections (and electoral campaigns) quite an interesting place in the hearts of joyful Mauritius. Elections are soap operas, if not a sports match. It is gossip time. La fiesta!
During electoral campaigns, the country will be decorated. Nature’s dull green will soon vanish and be replaced by a kaleidoscope of colors. The battle of colours will invade the whole country, not sparing the black tar on roads, tree trunks, buildings and clean walls. The world will seem colourful to its maximum- very sad. The actual or future Minister of Environment does not seem disturbed, colours and colours, everywhere. Almost every immovable thing will be painted –they can’t complain anyway, so who cares?
Passion for elections is not what this all means; lack of leisure is more it. Once elections are gone and the thrones duly allocated to almost-almighty ministers, the population will continue its everyday life; lamenting or enjoying it all, depending on which side one is from.
There is one thing that always bring me back to my village childhood days. It was only during electoral campaigns that we would get a chance of seeing sexy cars in our small lanes. German brands will grace our streets; we would even touch them very hesitantly. This has not changed today. Village roads are normally full of black bicycles that get passed down from one generation another. It is indeed during electoral campaigns that ex and future ministers explore the country in depth. You sometimes feel the urge to greet them with a punch (not the drink, of course). At this time, you can also discover many boot-licking talents on show. The hope of reward induces tail-wagging reactions which are uncontrollable. It was never a surprise to me to see my macho neighbors turning into docile lambs in front of politicians. It still happens and it still amuses me. These expeditions in the deep of Mauritius are usually accompanied by the spirit of Santa Claus. Pressure-cookers, pasta, mobile phones, bank notes… Santa showers the gifts, disguised as a politician desperately trying to grab a vote here and there. All of this is mostly drama and role-play.
It is quite understandable that politicians need close protection, like any common mortal who feels he’s gone wrong, very wrong, somewhere. So natural and human. Protection means bodyguards and in Mauritius it translates into bouncers. These ironmen usually operate as private security guards in discos. Time for the night-owls to show themselves to a larger public; those who are dumb enough to sleep when intelligent people are busy getting drunk on dance floors.
Bouncers are part of local electoral scene. The indecent demonstration of force is exciting for many. It shows that something is happening (at last) on the island. The services offered to a politician offers high return on investment to the bouncers. They can easily shift from simple bouncers to a Security Company with interesting contracts. Some politicians are literally aping late Michael Jackson. They are surrounded by so many bouncers that even their shadows have difficulty following them. They have less security when they become minister, strange! So seeing so many strong men on the island might surprise foreigners, you never thought that we had so many muscles on our soil, did you? Seeing them during sunlight may affect your eyes, do not look too closely though (don’t stare at all), it might have adverse effects on your face. These Popeye-after-the-spinach are also very exposed to nissa and might have unexpected reactions.
Well my expatriate friends, here is what to expect during this festive time. Another key advice I would give though: be careful while choosing your dress colors. It is not intelligent to wear red while standing in an orange crowd. The nissa is known to turn people deaf. By the time you have explained your choice of color and made yourself understood, you would be naked with no other choice than closing your eyes and experience your own invisibility powers. For a wiser wardrobe color strategy, the two major duos are Red–Purple and Orange-White-Blue. So if you see a red or purple crowd, better be camouflaged in your orange, white or blue!

 
The situation is not dramatic though. Every now and then, some fights erupt, again to let people know that something is ‘happening’ on paradise-island. After elections, two more days of nissa- one on the counting day and another at the final ‘thanksgiving’ public meetings. It is after all, like being in the stadium during a hot-match. You can choose to sit among highly-excited supporters or among sports-lovers. It all depends on the experience you choose to live.

 

Enjoy …for once the beaches and the sun will carry less ‘nissa’.

 

Nadeem

www.gibsonandhills.com

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Victim of our success – T.H.A.N.K. Y.O.U !

Dear Readers

We have not been able to answer each and every questions we had for the past weeks.

Please accept our sincere apologies. We were actually flooded with comments and questions. We really appreciate your feedback. Our blog has visibly earned its place among you.

We will try to me more reactive in the future and we will continue to bring to you valuable information on employment, business management and immigration; subjects we specialize ourselves in.

Once again, a big thanks to all you! Spread the link !

Best regards

Nadeem

P.S: A happy employee always makes good business.

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Labour Law for foreigners planning to work and live in Mauritius

Mauritius, and without any doubt, is now positioned as a leading international business centre. This is the result of a combination of factors: the vision of our leaders, constant investment and effort over the years and implementing a well defined national strategy. From an agriculture based economy, the island has successfully transformed itself into a world class financial hub . One of the drivers of such a success story lies in the way foreign capital and expertise have been injected into our economy.

Foreign labour is today part and parcel of almost every economic sector in Mauritius. And the proper management of foreign labour according to set laws is therefore a growing concern for business owners. Contrary to common belief, employing of foreign labour involves several laws over and above the Employments Rights Act. We have often came across cases where expatriates are not fully aware of their rights, obligations and responsibilities. They are pushed to the wall and are, in a lot of cases, left with no other choice than to leave the country (without adequate compensation). In some cases where matters go to court, it is fairly common practice for employers to trigger the deportation of the employee themselves. This then results in the concerned person being absent from court with no case to answer. Next in our HR series of articles, we intend to devote some time to foreign workers living and working on the island. This article focuses on the first stage of foreign labour employment : securing work and residence permits.

Foreigners who work in Mauritius need to abide by the Immigration Act as far as their residence is concerned. The employer has the responsibility of ensuring that all required Laws are respected. Work and residence can be considered as two separate things and both call for distinct procedures to be followed. Basically one needs to get approval to work (through a work permit for example) and based on this approval, you are then allowed to stay and work in Mauritius. This permission to stay comes in the form of a residence permit. The work permit scheme is regulated under the labour law and the Immigration Act. The scheme caters for employees with a salary not exceeding Rs45,000 a month.

A Mauritian company wishing to employ a foreigner, has to make an application for a work permit to the Ministry of Labour. Depending on the industry, the employer needs to seek prior approval to recruit foreign labour before actually submitting an application. In other words, one has to ask for permission to apply for work permit. The Ministry will then decide whether there is a scarcity of such labour on the local market and allow the employer to look for the ideal candidate abroad. Once the candidate is selected, there is a specific set of procedures to be undertaken. At this stage, the application stage, the employee must not undertake any travel to Mauritius. He or she should await the final outcome of the application before entering the country. Application procedures involve presenting the qualifications of the candidate, original copies of medical examination results, a job profile and details of the post to be occupied. In cases when the proposed salary is less than Rs30,000, the proposed contract of employment has to be validated by the Ministry prior to submitting the work permit application. The medical results should be submitted to the Ministry of Health for a provisional clearance. In parallel, the employer has to also submit an application for a residence permit to the Passport and Immigration Office. The processing of both applications may take from one to three months.

The work permit scheme can in some cases also cater for business promoters who do not fit the criteria of Investor Occupation Permit, i.e. invest US$100,000 and generate Rs4 million as annual turnover. Here the promoter may apply as a managing director drawing a salary of less than Rs45,000 per month. However, the company needs to justify the presence of the managing director, why such presence is essential and why no Mauritian is able to hold this post.

The biggest constraint with the work permit scheme is that applicants must stay in their country and wait for the outcome of their application prior to entering Mauritius. On the brighter side though, and contrary to the Occupation Permit (see below) where the applicant needs to be in Mauritius, a work permit allows you get approval before spending huge sums of money on flights and accommodation to come all the way here.

With changes in the global socio-economic environment coupled by the need for Mauritius to attract higher skills, other schemes have been introduced with time. One such scheme is the Occupation Permit (OP). This scheme is managed by the Board of Investment (BOI) but the Passport & Immigration office is the authority that issues this permit; operating under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office. Occupation Permits provide for a streamlined set of procedures, faster processing time and also take into account the modern human resources environment.

Occupation Permits (OP) are divided into four categories; investor, retired, self-employed and professionals. Employees are classified under the professional category while self-employed caters for ‘gold-collar’ professions such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, consultants, etc.

An essential condition is that the candidate should be a qualified professional and is in possession of a job offer with Rs45,000 as minimum basic monthly salary. The only exception here is in the IT sector, where the proposed salary can start as from Rs30,000 per month.

A notable difference in the procedure (as compared to work permits) is that the candidate should be present in Mauritius during the application process, on a business visa. He or she should show his original documents such as birth certificate, marriage certificate (if the spouse intends to move over as well), original or certified copies of all qualifications and testimonials. All medical examination have to be exclusively carried out in Mauritius. There is no prior clearance to to be sought from the Ministry of Health as all documents are submitted at one counter, and this is at the Board of Investment (BOI). The BOI, like most institutions in the country, has been caught in the tide for innovation. As such it his introduced a preliminary online application procedure. I admit, however, not being too sure as to the effectiveness of this step at this stage, especially since one still has to present all his documents in the conventional manner to the counter once the online step has been completed. But let’s assume that this is only due to being at teething stage and the online system, will soon be a full fledged and complete procedure that will replace conventional paper work. As an aside though, I beg to be allowed to doubt the effectiveness of the online system – officers of the BOI keep repeating this to applicants: ‘Ignore all our emails until you get the last one’. I’m sure you ask the same question as I am; how to know which one is the last email? And why must ignore official correspondence from an authority, if it takes the trouble of sending or generating these emails? Well, this is not the subject of our blog but I can’t refrain myself from adding two pinch of my personal salt (!).

The processing time for an Occupation permit ranges between 10 to 15 days. In the earlier days, Mauritius was boasting itself of a processing time of 3 working days. This processing time was initially part of an overall strategy to attract foreign labour and capital, reflecting the standards of a modern business jurisdiction. The law even stated that if one did not get one’s permits within a maximum delay of 7 days, it can be assumed that the permit has been granted. The receipt certifying submission of your application would legally stand as the Occupation Permit! Today this ‘speed processing’ strategy seems to have vanished.

Holders of an OP have access to other incentives over the medium and long term. Under certain conditions, they can purchase an apartment in, at its minimum, a two-storey complex. Those earning more than Rs150,000 a month can even apply for a Permanent Residence. Word of caution though: Permanent Residence is a 10 year renewable permit with the ability to purchase any type of residential property.

Those aspiring to work and live in Mauritius have ensure they adequate knowledge of the immigration laws first. This law might, in some cases, supersede the labour act. In cases of breach, it can lead to expulsion even if the person is happily working in the job of his or her dreams. It is recommended that you consult a professional to assist (or confirm) foreign labour recruitment plans. If you are a future expatriate or thinking about the ways to benefit from the professional residence scheme, do not hesitate to contact our team for advice and guidance.

Foreign labour is an essential and integral part of the progress achieved by our island. Expatriates have been contributing at every level and we, as Mauritians, need to acknowledge this contribution. The legendary hospitable culture of the island makes work and living a very enjoyable experience for foreigners. However, at times abuse by employers, mostly in bulk employment situations, have tarnished the reputation of the island. Inhuman accommodation conditions, bad work conditions and insufficient remuneration (or even its complete absence) have been highlighted in the press. It should be said and noted, however, that the reaction of the Minister of Labour in the recent part was quick, to the point and very effective.

This is proof enough that Mauritian authorities are doing their best to maintain the reputation of Mauritius as a world class destination for entrepreneurs and skilled professionals.

Http://Www.gibsonandhills.com

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Overtime work in Mauritius, an overview.

First of all, our sincere thanks to all our readers.  Our last blog was a visible success. We got so many comments from many of you, request for advice on different scenarios and words of encouragement.  It made us realize that people do not have easy access to information on Labour Law and that not much, either, is available on the internet.  So here we are; with more information on rules and laws governing employment in Mauritius.

 

Gibson & Hills Ltd provide a comprehensive range of services to businesses and entrepreneurs.  These include financial management, operational management and, of course, human resources management. Our HR consultancy and management services cater for varying types of organizational & operational structures.  Our clients operate in different industry sectors.

 

We are often requested to advise employees and employers on overtime work.  One of the most popular queries that we get from most of our clients is about whether or not to remunerate it.  And often the question about remuneration is a cause of tension if not dismissals or formal grievances.  Before giving you the broad lines on when to remunerate or not overtime, let’s look at what overtime really is.

 

Overtime is defined as the amount of time someone works beyond normal working hours.  In Mauritius the term ‘normal working hours’ depends largely on the sector in which a person is in.  For example, in the corporate sector one normally works 40 hours weekly.  In trade and commerce, the norm is for a 45 hour week. 

 

Overtime work is justified when the needs of the business are such that employees need to work more than their normal hours to cope with increased work load, peak times and exceptional circumstances.

 

The Employment Rights Act (2008) sets out the main provisions for overtime work (Part IV, Section 16).  The main points to bear in mind are:

 

  1. Overtime must be agreed with the employee and an advance notice of 24hours is recommended

 

  1. The staff member has the right to say no to working over and above normal working hours, the employer is notified at least 24hours in advance.

 

Payment for overtime work is usually calculated over a fortnight.  It becomes applicable if an employee works beyond 90 hours over a two week period and is paid at 1.5 times the usual hourly rate.   Working on a public holiday or on a Sunday is also considered as overtime work in Mauritius.  And the rate of pay here is at 2 times the usual hourly rate.  Specific provisions on overtime are found in Remuneration Orders (for example the Catering and & Tourism Industries Remuneration Order – for restaurants, hotels, etc; the Distributive Trade Remuneration Order – for shops and commercial trades, etc) and must be taken into consideration before deciding on the overtime rate that applies in the sector that you operate in. 

 

There are a few other important points to note as well:

 

  1. As long the hours worked on Sundays and public holidays days do not lead to more than 90 working hours over a fortnight, it is normal practice not to count these hours as overtime in the commercial sector. However, there must be an agreement between the employer and the employee to this effect.

 

  1. As in most labour laws, provisions on benefits such as as overtime pay set out minimum standards only and an employer has the freehand to be more generous if they wish to.

 

  1.  In exceptional situations, an employee may be called upon to work overtime hours at short notice.  This could be to cope with unforeseen workload or to cover for the absence of a sick colleague.  In such cases, after a usual day’s work (generally 8 hours) the employee is entitled to a meal allowance.  An additional break time must also be provided.  The meal allowance, according to law is at Rs50 per meal.  However, it is good practice to provide enough money for a decent meal. We usually advise this to be at Rs100 minimum.  Alternatively, the employer can also provide a meal in lieu.

 

The spirit of the Labour law in Mauritius lies on the basis that the employer and employee need to agree on the terms of employment.  Both parties can indeed agree that instead of remunerating overtime work, the employer will grant Time Off In Lieu.  The labour inspectorate will not frown if they find a written agreement, duly signed by both parties to this effect!

 

At Gibson & Hills we understand how interpreting the Employments Rights Act and the relevant Remuneration Orders can make you nervous.  We have been in the field of HR management in Mauritius, serving different types of businesses, for a while now to sufficiently master this area.  Please send us your queries to hr@gibsonandhills.com.

 

http://www.gibsonandhills.com

 

 

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