Overview of Sri Lanka’s Legal Regime

Employees who are occupied in an office or shop will be administered by the Shop and Office Employees (Regulation of Employment and Remuneration) Act No. 19 of 1954 (“SOEA”).


Working Hours

As per the SOEA regulation, the common time period of employment (exclusive of rest and meal breaks) will be as follows:

  • A time period that does not go beyond eight hours a day

  • A time period that does not go beyond 45 hours a week

The worker is allowed to a meal or rest break of half an hour at the expiration of any period of four hours of continual employment that is commonly translated into a meal and rest break of an hour each day. No meal or rest break will be permissible if the employee is not engaged in work for over five hours on any given day.

Therefore, the requirements of the SOEA and the Regulations are not applicable to any individual employed in or regarding the trade of an office or shop as a travelling salesperson, investigator, supervisor, manager or in any related faculty. Consequently such workers may be obligated to work more than eight hours a day and/or 45 hours per week devoid of any claim to overtime. Conversely, such workers will however be permitted to weekly holidays as stated by the SOEA.

In general practice, administrative female staff who are occupied in work hours in infringement of such limitations exclusive of permit provided that sufficient amenities are offered, for example, meals, travelling, etc.


Overtime will be due to be paid where a worker is necessitated to work beyond the prescribed hours of working. The SOEA regulation confines overtime to 12 hours per week. This restriction however is not strictly imposed.

Additionally, in practice, administrative staff are not salaried overtime on the foundation that such employees are not salaried relative to the hours worked but for the fulfillment of responsibilities and occupations that are related to the relevant designations.

Wherever appropriate, overtime is to be paid at one and a half times the hourly charge and an amount in proportion for less than an hour. The procedure for the calculation of overtime is illustrated below:

  • Payment on a daily charge- 1/8 of the daily fee

  • Payment on a monthly charge- 1/8 of the monthly fee that is divided by 30

  • Payment on a fortnightly charge- 1/8 of the fortnightly fee that is divided by 14

  • Payment on a weekly charge- 1/8 of the weekly fee that is divided by 7


It is common for Contracts of Employment to provide for termination by either party with one month’s notice or one month’s salary in lieu of notice or without notice for reasons under conditions set out in the Contract of Employment. nonetheless, albeit such provisions, the existing local employment/labor laws allow the termination of contract in only of the following circumstances:

  • With the prior written approval of the Commissioner of Labor

  • With such employee’s consent;

  • Where there is an acceptable cause for termination.


As per the National Minimum Wage of Workers Act No.3 of 2016 which came into function with effect from the 1st January 2016, the minimum monthly wage for all employees (irrespective of industry) is LKR 10,000/- and the minimum daily wage will be LKR.400/-


Weekly Holidays

According to the regulations of the SOEA, a member of staff who works for no fewer than 28 hours (exclusive of breaks and overtime) in any one week should be permitted to one and a half days of paid holidays in that said week or the week that follows immediately after that. Usually such weekly holidays are given as a half day on Saturday and a complete day on Sunday. It is also ordinary for the majority of the organizations to offer a complete holiday on Saturday also.

Any worker who is necessitated to work on any weekly holiday is permitted to a sum at the overtime amount in agreement with the procedure illustrated above.

Constitutional Holidays

Office and shop workers are permitted to a salaried holiday on all constitutional holidays. Presently such holidays are as below:

  • Tamil Thai-Pongal

  • National Day

  • Milad-Un-Nabi (Holy Prophet’s Birthday)

  • Day preceding the Sinhala and Tamil New Year

  • Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day

  • May Day

  • Day subsequent to the Vesak Full Moon Poya Day

  • Christmas Day

As maintained by the stringent application of the SOEA, the consent of the Commissioner of Labour is mandatory for an office or shop member of staff to work on a constitutional holiday. Nevertheless, in general practice in the event where a member of the staff works on a constitutional holiday, then such workers are given a substitute holiday on any day prior to 31st of December of that said year or salaried an additional day’s income.

Poya Days and Mercantile Holidays

All workers are permitted to a holiday on a full moon Poya day. Nonetheless, a worker could be engaged in work on such a day given that the said employee is paid no less than one and a half times the typical daily salary. If a mercantile holiday or Poya day falls on a constitutional holiday or what is habitually a full or half weekly holiday, a substitute holiday does not need be granted in lieu.

Annual Holiday/Leave

An office or shop worker is permitted to 14 days of Yearly Leave complete with the full salary for each concluded year of service. The SOEA entails that no fewer than seven days be permitted on a successive basis. In value of the first year of service, a worker is permitted to a fair leave that is calculated as below:

  • 14 days if service began on or after the 1st of January but before the 1st of April

  • 10 days if service began on or after the 1st of April but before the 1st of July

  • 7 days if service began on or after the 1st of July but before the 1st of October

  • 4 days if service began on or after the 1st of October but before the 31st of December

Besides the Annual Leave, an office or shop worker will be permitted to seven days of informal leave in respect of every calendar year. Informal leave for the initial year of service can be taken on the foundation of one day for every concluded period of two months service.

The maximum Annual Leave or holiday claims for workers in the building industry will be one holiday for every unit of 18 days the employee had worked (maximum operational days will be 252) and a maximum of 14 days.

For workers occupied in the engineering industry, a maximum of 14 days holidays with seven days to be taken successively.

Maternity Leave

Under the SOEA, for the birth of an employee’s first child, or where the employee already has one child and for the birth of the second child, the employee is permitted eighty four (84) days paid leave. Such leave can be availed of as 14 days pre-confinement leave and seventy (70) days post confinement leave.

In the event of the birth of a third or subsequent child (where the employee already has two previous children, both alive – otherwise, her entitlement will remain as 84 days) the entitlement of leave shall be 42 working days, which can be availed of as fourteen 14 days pre-confinement leave and 28 days post-confinement leave.

If a female employee passes away during her maternity leave, the leave in respect of which the payment is to be made by the employer is only up to and including the date of death.

Female workers not covered by the SOEA will be covered by the Maternity Benefits Ordinance No.32 of 1939. (“MBO”)

In the event of females covered under the MBO, the leave entitlement allotted for the first and second child is a total of 12 weeks (superseding non-working days to be included).

The leave entitlement for the third child or subsequent child or deceased child or a viable fetus is 06 weeks (intervening non-working days to be included).

If a female passes away during her maternity leave, the leave in respect of which payment must be made is only up to and including the date of her death.


The Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance No.19 of 1934 (“WCO”) provides for the imbursement of compensation to employees who go through an illness/injury in the course of their employment. In the case of an employee’s death in such circumstances, the WCO provides for payment of compensation to his/her dependents.

The quantum of compensation payable is set out in Schedule VI of the WCO and estimated according to the monthly salary of the employee at the time of death/disablement. The categories laid out for in the Ordinance are as follows:-

  1. Death (of minor/adult);

  2. Permanent and complete disablement (paralysis, blindness etc.);

  3. Permanent partial disablement (loss of a limb or a part thereof or digit, loss of hearing, loss of one eye etc.);

  4. Temporary disablement (whether partial or total)

Compensation is also allocated in the case of suffering by an occupational disease. The charge of compensation is decided upon after taking into deliberation the nature of the illness and the situations in which it happened.

In both instances given above, the injury/illness suffered should be an injury/illness occurring out of employment or should have occurred in the course of employment. If it is an occupational disease, it should be contracted as a result of working in such an occupation.

This is only an overview of the applicable law, and should not be relied upon as legal advice or recommendation by D. L. & F. De Saram, a leading law firm in Sri Lanka. If you require our advice, please be good enough to contact us on [email protected]