The national daily minimum wage remained at 300 baht ($8.30). The government last calculated the official poverty line in 2013 at 2,572 baht ($71) per month.
The maximum workweek by law is 48 hours, or eight hours per day over six days, with a limit of 36 overtime hours per week. Employees engaged in “dangerous” work, such as chemical, mining, or other industries involving heavy machinery, may work a maximum of 42 hours per week and may not work overtime. Petrochemical industry employees may not work more than 12 hours per day and may work continuously for a maximum period of 28 days. By law employers may not change employment conditions without the employee’s consent, unless the changes benefit the employee.
The law requires safe and healthy workplaces, including for home-based businesses, and prohibit pregnant women and children younger than 15 years from working in hazardous conditions (as detailed in ministerial regulations). Workers do not have the right to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The law allows pregnant women to present a physician’s certificate to request a change of duties both prior to and after delivery. The law also requires the employer to inform employees about hazardous working conditions prior to employment.
Legal protections do not apply equally to all sectors. For example, ministerial regulations provide household domestic workers some protections regarding holidays, sick leave, minimum age, and payment of wages, but they do not address minimum wage, regular working hours, or maternity leave. The minimum wage and social security system does not apply to workers in the informal sector and seasonal types of work, such as agriculture. Although the Home Based Worker Protection Act came into force in 2011, the DLPW has not yet issued regulations on wages, working conditions, and prohibited hazardous work for home-based workers.
The DLPW is responsible for verifying that employers adhere to minimum wage requirements in the formal sector, as well as inspecting working hours, rest time, holiday and sick leave, and overtime payment. The DLPW also enforces laws related to labor relations and occupational safety and health. The law subjects employers to maximum fines of 100,000 baht ($2,770) and a maximum imprisonment for six months for minimum wage noncompliance, but enforcement was inconsistent. The maximum sentence for conviction of violations of occupational safety and health regulations is one year’s imprisonment and fines of 400,000 baht ($10,240). In 2014 there were approximately 350,900 workplaces employing 8.1 million workers. This estimate did not include informal workplaces such as family farms and home-based businesses. The DLPW has only 594 labor inspectors nationwide, insufficient to enforce labor laws.
DLPW labor inspectors inspected 40,274 workplaces employing 1.3 million workers during 2014 and found 499 workplaces that failed to comply with labor protection laws. Most violations involved failure to establish employee welfare committees and failure to provide traditional and annual holidays for workers. the DLPW also received 6,882 grievances from 16,272 workers in 2014. Most grievances involved wages and severance pay. Limited numbers of inspectors, the practice of interviewing employees at workplace locations, reliance on document-based inspection, and lack of interpreters to accompany inspection teams resulted in ineffective inspections.
On occupational health and safety, the DLPW in 2014 inspected 14,967 workplaces employing 800,000 workers and found that 807 workplaces (5 percent) failed to comply with health and safety regulations. Most of these involved failure to establish safety committees; problems with machines, cranes, and boilers; health checkups; and inappropriate levels of heat, light, and noise. According to the DLPW, the highest incidences of violations regarding workers’ safety were in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, construction, and hotel and restaurant industries. After the department issued orders to companies to make amends, companies resolved the majority of violations; however, there were at least 213 legal actions filed by labor inspectors after the employer failed to make amends or pay the required fine.
Redress for workers injured in industrial accidents generally was untimely and insufficient. Court decisions were rare, and few went against management or owners involved in workplace disasters, but isolated cases demonstrated the courts have legal authority to compensate injured workers. NGOs reported several cases of the government denying accident compensation to registered migrants because they had not passed nationality verification. In September the Supreme Administrative Court ruled to rescind a regulation issued by the Social Security Office that it deemed set out unlawful practices and discriminatory treatment against migrant workers and their access to the Workmen’s Compensation Fund. The court ruled that registered migrants allowed to work temporarily in the country should be entitled to accident compensation.
Some formal sector workers nationwide received less than the minimum wage, particularly in rural provinces. A reported 57 percent of the labor force worked in the informal economy, including in agriculture, forestry, and fishing, with limited protection under labor laws and the social security system. There remained a large income gap between formal and informal employment, with workers in the informal economy receiving lower wages compared with those in the formal sectors. Most noncompliant employers were small enterprises with fewer than 50 workers. Labor protections also apply to undocumented workers, but many employers did not provide minimum wage to unskilled and semiskilled undocumented migrant workers. In 2014 the DLPW assisted 1,579 migrant workers from Burma (1,378), Laos (57), and Cambodia (144) to claim owed wages and benefits totaling 24.3 million baht ($673,500). The government regularized migrant labor registration to help decrease the proportion of undocumented workers in its workforce and thereby reduce migrants’ vulnerability to abuse.
Registered migrant workers and their dependents may work and live legally in the country and have access to health care under the health insurance scheme until March 2016. The government also reduced fees for short-term workers from 450 baht ($12.50) to 225 baht ($6.20) for a one to three month work permit and from 900 baht ($24.90) to 450 baht ($12.50) for a three to six month work permit. Observers commented that the government could reduce the number of brokers and the amount of informal fees associated with the regularization process; however, concerns remained over the uncertainty of the nationality verification process, which requires cooperation between the government and neighboring countries, and the lack of a long-term migration policy. While there was no reliable count of illegal migrant workers in the country, government and NGO sources estimated the number of both regular and illegal migrant workers to be 2.5 to 3.7 million.
Despite efforts at regularization, migrant workers, in particular undocumented migrants, did not enjoy many labor protections accorded to citizen workers and remained vulnerable and without recourse under the law. NGOs reported poor working conditions for both documented and undocumented migrant workers. A substantial number of migrants worked in factories near border-crossing points, where there were frequent reports of labor law violations. The Ministry of Labor reported establishing a center with an interpreter in each of the following 11 provinces with significant migrant worker populations: Samut Sakhon, Kanchanaburi, Chonburi, Rayong, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Trang, Phuket, Ranong, Songkhla, and Tak. Civil society groups working on migrant rights reported improvements in services due to these efforts.
Companies employing migrant workers reportedly made unlawful deductions from migrant worker wages to repay the costs of smuggling, registration, permits, and other expenses. Workers also reported several other violations by contractors, including failure to pay holiday overtime; provide equipment, uniforms, or adequate drinking water; or pay daily minimum wages for less than eight hours of work. Workers further reported deductions from wages for sick leave absences and bribes to officials to ignore undocumented workers.
The government also requires employers in the fishing industry to keep official records of their workers and worker payroll records, as well as to use standardized employment contracts that clearly outline the wage, working hours, benefits, and welfare while working on board a vessel. The 2014 ministerial regulation on sea fishing vessels requires the income of fishery workers (base salary plus share from profit) be equal to the national minimum wage. The law also requires rest periods and annual and holiday leave. It further requires employers to take workers to report to the Ministry of Labor at least once per year. Additionally, the regulation requires employers to pay at least 50 percent of the daily wage during periods workers are outside the country without work and unable to return to the country. The new law also mandates employers to cover transportation costs to return workers to a recruitment area if their boat was not operational, if workers are unable to work, if the employer alters or terminates the employment contract before the end of the contract, or when the employment contract ends. Nonetheless, workers in the fishing industry lacked access to social security and accident compensation. In 2014 the government registered 58,508 undocumented migrant fishery workers.
The government required recruitment agencies that recruit migrant workers for employment in the country to register with the Department of Employment (DOE). As of September, 274 in-bound recruitment agencies had registered with DOE. There were still no specific regulations to regulate or monitor services and fees of in-bound recruitment agencies and service providers that assist migrant workers through the regularization process.
Labor brokerage firms used a “contract labor system” under which workers sign an annual contract. By law businesses must provide contract laborers “fair benefits and welfare without discrimination.” Regardless of whether the contract labor employee was outsourced and collected wages from a separate company, by law the contracting business is the overall employer, and the law requires equal pay and benefits for subcontract and regular employees. Although contract laborers performed the same work as direct-hire workers, employers often paid them less and provided fewer or no benefits.
Exploitative local labor supply agencies persisted in charging citizens working overseas large, illegal recruitment fees that frequently equaled their first- and second-year earnings. Private employment service agencies must deposit a security of five million baht ($138,580) with the government that it may use for compensation for exploited workers, if needed. NGOs noted local moneylenders, mostly informal, contributed to this practice by offering loans at exorbitant interest rates so workers could pay recruitment fees, some as high as 500,000 baht ($13,860). DOE regulations limit the maximum charges for recruitment fees, but effective enforcement of the rules remained difficult and inadequate due to workers’ unwillingness to provide information and the lack of legal documentary evidence regarding underground recruitment fees. During the year the government found instances of malpractice such as fraudulent recruitment practices and excessive service fees. As a result of investigations, the government filed criminal charges against three agencies and suspended the license of another. Additionally, the Ministry of Labor also made efforts to combat illegal employment service agencies, conducting 88 investigations and identifying 107 illegal brokers. In total the Ministry of Labor took 134 legal actions against 156 illegal brokers. The department also reported negotiating with the governments of Israel and South Korea to reduce the expenses and recruitment fees for citizen migrant workers.
During 2014 there were 100,234 reported incidents of diseases and injuries from workplace accidents, including 68,903 minor injuries (resulting in no more than three days’ work missed) and 31,331 injuries resulting in more than three days’ work missed (including permanent disabilities and deaths). Some children engaged in hazardous and unhealthy working conditions (see section 7.c.). Observers believed the rate of workplace accidents in the informal and agricultural sectors and among migrant workers was higher because of underreporting. Employers rarely diagnosed or compensated occupational diseases, and few doctors or clinics specialized in them. Migrant workers and their dependents in both formal and informal sectors were eligible to buy health insurance. Some migrant workers, however, did not purchase health insurance because they did not understand their rights due to language barriers, an insufficient number of health-care personnel, and other factors. Medium and large factories often applied government health and safety standards, but overall enforcement of safety standards was lax. In the informal sector, health and safety protections were substandard.