Revised GOP framework to absorb more Seychellois into local labour market
Following the announcement made by President Wavel Ramkalwan in his State-of-the-nation address last month, a revised Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) framework is now in place in the attempt to allow more employment opportunities for locals.
In his address, President Ramkalawan noted that it is important to firstly look at if there are no Seychellois in any workplace who can do the available tasks, since there are many job opportunities locally, while urging Seychellois to change their mindset on working.
He further explained that at present there are too many foreigners working in Seychelles and that the number has a direct impact on the economy as these foreigners are paid in foreign currency which is being taken away from the country.
A GOP allows the holder to be gainfully occupied in Seychelles and this could be as an employee or as a self‐employed person.
The new framework is a renewed version of the temporary one introduced in June last year to allow businesses to plan and re-adapt to the current economic situation being faced by our country and for the government to ensure that priority of employment remains for Seychellois.
After several discussions with its tripartite partners, workers and employers Unions, as well as representatives from the private sector, the ministry responsible for employment amended the Employment Act, 1995 and introduced the temporary framework.
Following the expiration of its timeline in December last year, a revision process was carried out in line with the country’s economic situation, in relation to the labour market.
After consultations with the private sector, several propositions were gathered and approved by the Cabinet of Ministers last Wednesday, resulting into the amended version of the framework.
In a press conference yesterday, director general for labour migration Benilda Cupidon (Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs) and principal immigration officer Erica Dufrenne (Ministry of Internal Affairs) gave details of the amendments made to the framework, including the various benefits it will bring to the country.
This includes the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), the Free Extension of GOPs (for up to 3 months), Revalidation of GOPs, Renewal of GOPs, New GOPs and the Change of employers by non-Seychellois workers among others.
It is to note that until December 2020, the number of active registered jobseekers with private employment agencies was 350, while the number of active registered jobseekers with employment services section was 371.
The Unemployment Relief Scheme (URS) was accommodating 1790 participants, while 2763 workers, both Seychellois and non-Seychellois, were made redundant.
Regarding GOP, 10,412 applications were made by December 2020 through the employment department, with 8930 – new and renewal – being approved.
Up to February 2021, 1765 returning GOP holders made requests with 1220 receiving approval and 545 rejected.
To date, the construction industry tops the list of the country’s foreign workforce, followed by food service activities, manufacturing agencies and trade, wholesale and retail respectively.
At present, there are 17,026 foreigners with valid work permits, the majority being Indians.
Certificate of Entitlement (COE)
The certificate which is to fast track applications for recruitment of non-Seychellois for businesses operating within their quota will remain, while there will be new conditions attached to it, forcing businesses holding it to submit the list of vacancies they intend to enlist to the employment department only.
It will also only be considered where the needed skills are not available locally, in the effort to absorb more Seychellois into the local labour market.
Free Extension of GOPs (for up to 3 months)
It was introduced to legalise status of the worker in the country, giving ample time for repatriation after re-opening of the International Airport.
Due to the force majeure situation, the extension of the GOP was free of charge, but as from February 15, 2021 the service will be made payable due numerous past cases of abuse regarding the service.
In several cases, many employers applied for the visa on several occasions, but were not making arrangements to repatriate their workers, but were rather using it as a free opportunity to keep their foreign employees without paying for a permit.
Revalidation of GOPs
This was set up to revalidate the GOPs to cover unused period spent away from work on lay-off.
Previously, employers who wished to revalidate their GOP to cover unused period spent away from work on lay-off needed to submit their applications directly to the immigration department.
To note that the GOPs had to be valid in order to apply for revalidation and the correct procedure for lay-off under the Employment Act, 1995 had been followed. Employers also needed to notify the employment department of their intentions after the specified period of lay-off as to whether it was to be prolonged, in case that the business was partially or wholly operational or apply for redundancy.
The new framework has ceased the process to align with current review.
Renewal of GOPs
It was principally set up for the renewal of GOPs for workers currently in the country directly to the immigration department, on condition that the post is not on localisation plan and organisation is within its quota.
Based on the new framework, all renewal requests will have to be submitted to employment department as from February 15, 2021.
Previously, new GOPs were being considered in the priority sectors namely, Agriculture, Fisheries and Health as well as other sectors based on national priority projects, national priority services, skills availability of local workers made redundant and unemployed persons, as well as the level of tourism activity locally.
The employment department will now assess all new requests through its internal mechanisms using the criteria established.
Non-Seychellois workers on existing GOP and out of the country due to border closure
Since July 31, 2020, GOPs of all non-Seychellois out of Seychelles were revoked except for the Medical, Agricultural, and Fisheries sectors.
Employers needed to submit a returning GOP request to principal secretary for Employment, to be reviewed by GOP Assessment Committee.
The GOP Assessment Committee
The committee was set up to assess the merit of applications for employment of GOP holders in Seychelles and new GOPs.
In view that the returning GOP holders requests will cease, the functions of the GOP Committee will stop once pending cases have been finalised, while the new requests will be reviewed by the employment department.
Change of employers by non-Seychellois workers
This was intended for employers wishing to move their non-Seychellois workers within their different businesses or with another employer, while mutual agreement of all parties was required.
The new framework maintains the process, but adds criteria to specify that only non-Seychellois made redundant or whose contracts have ended will be considered for the Change of Employer.
As previously the case, the revised framework rules that if a non-Seychellois worker is made redundant and the post features on the localisation plan, the local understudy shall be given priority if ready and still available, when the post becomes available.