Working Hours and Holidays

Working Hours and Holidays in Sri Lanka: There are three laws that set the working hours, rest intervals and different types of holidays -Wages Board Ordinance of 1941, Shop and Office Employees Act of 1954, Factories Ordinance of 1950.

What are the laws in Sri Lanka relating to working hours and holidays?

There are three laws that set the working hours, rest intervals and different types of holidays. These are:

  • Wages Board Ordinance of 1941
  • Shop and Office Employees Act of 1954
  • Factories Ordinance of 1950

How will I know which of these laws is applicable to establishment I am working in?

  1. The Factories Ordinance applies to any establishment engaged in:
  • A manufacturing process
  • Charitable or reformatory work
  • Technical or vocational training, where any manual labour is exercised such as making, altering, and repairing, ornamenting, finishing, washing, cleaning, or adapting for sale.
  • Even if these premises do not constitute a factory, the provisions of the Factories Ordinance will apply.
  • The Shop and Office Employees Act is applicable to all employees working in a shop or an office.
  • The Wages Board Ordinance will apply to all trades listed under the Ordinance.

What are the categories of workers in Sri Lanka?

  1. Permanent workers
  2. Probationers
  3. Apprentices
  4. Temporary workers
  5. Contract workers

How does the private sector engage workers?

  • Workers in the private sector are mostly engaged on time bound contracts.
  • The probationary period is generally six months, but in some cases, can be extended for a further three months.
  • Apprentices work on a temporary basis depending on the time period required under their skills or trade for practical instruction.
  • Temporary workers are hired on the basis of a particular task required for a defined time period. Seasonal workers are also in this category.
  • All contract workers work according to a specified job description for a fixed pay that does not involve overtime payments or additional ad hoc allowances.

How does the public sector engage workers?

  • The public service engages its employees on a permanent basis, and it is presumed that the period will continue until retirement at the age of 55 years.

What are the daily and weekly working hours? When does the overtime start and what is rate of overtime?

Wages Board Ordinance:

  • A normal working week cannot exceed 48 hours
  • All work over and beyond that period is considered overtime.
  • A maximum of 12 hours of overtime per week is permitted.
  • According to Section 24 (d) the payment for work on holidays should not be less than the overtime rate
  • If no overtime rate has been determined, then payment must be calculated at one-and-a quarter times the rate normally applicable to such work
  • A holiday must be given with or without remuneration on a day within a specified number of days
  • In the case of any special class of workers, the payment should not be less than one and a half times the rate normal to such work, without the grant of a substitute holiday.

The Shop and Office Employees Act

  • Working hours on any one day shall not exceed 8 hours, and
  • In any one week shall not exceed 45 hours.
  • This rule is not applicable to any person who holds an executive or managerial position in a public institution.

Factories Ordinance Section 67 – the work of women and young persons:

  • The total hours worked, exclusive of intervals for meals and rest, shall not exceed 9 hours in any day nor exceed 48 hours in any week
  • The working of hours of a person above the minimum age for employment (14 years) but less than 16 years shall not exceed 12 hours per day – not before 6 a.m. and not after 6 p.m.
  • The working hours of those below 18 years, cannot go beyond 8 p.m. and not beyond 1 p.m. on one day of the week.
  • Both women and young persons cannot be employed continuously for a spell of more than four and a half hours without an interval of at least half an hour.

What are the rules for night work for women?

As per the Factories Ordinance, while women can be employed in a factory and permitted to work throughout the night:

  • No woman shall be forced to work at night against her will
  • The Commissioner of Labour must sanction the factory to employ women after 10 p.m. at night
  • Women have worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. cannot be employed after 10 p.m. on any day
  • Night work by women shall be paid at a rate not less than one and half times the normal payment
  • Female wardens must be present in the factory to oversee the welfare of women workers
  • Women workers must be provided with restrooms and refreshments by the employer
  • A woman cannot be employed for more than 10 days of night work during any one month
  • Women and young persons over the age of 16 years may be employed for overtime, provided that this does not exceed a total of 100 hours annually or 6 hours in a week and no more than 25 weeks in a year.

What are the holidays workers are entitled to have?

According to Section 73 of the Factories Ordinance:

  • A young person shall not be employed in a factory on a Sunday
  • Every woman or young person employed in a factory shall be allowed six whole days as holidays on six consecutive week days per year

As per Sub Section 5 of the Shop and Office Employees Act

  • Every person employed in a shop or office shall be allowed one whole day and one half day as paid holidays per week.
  • Such holidays shall be allowed with full remuneration if the employee has worked for not less than twenty-eight hours, exclusive of any period of overtime work, during that week.
  • The holidays due in respect of any week shall be allowed either in that week or in the week immediately succeeding

What are my holiday and leave entitlements?

Casual LeaveSick LeaveAnnual LeavePublic HolidaysMaternity LeavePoya Holidays
One day per month in the first year of employment.Seven days for each year of employmentNo entitlement in the first year of service8 Public holidays per year,84 working days for the first and second child births.Each Full moon Poya day is considered a holiday.
1. National Day
2. Thaipongal
3. The day previous to the Sinhala Tamil new year day.
7 days from the second year of employment.The leave earned according to the period of service can be obtained (maximum – 14)4. The Sinhala Tamil new year day.42 days for the third and succeeding child births.
In the succeeding years earned leave of 14 days.5. May day.
6. The day following Vesak Poya day.
7. Holy Prophet’s Mohammed’s Birthday.
8. Christmas Day.



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