Statistics from the National Labour Department (NLD) indicate that 96 out the 200 licensed private employment agencies (PEA) in the country were in good standing at the end of the first quarter of this year.

Fourteen of the licensed agencies are into foreign recruitment and the remainder of 186 are all involved in local recruitment.

In 2014, a total of 4,702 job applicants secured employment through these agencies, of which 3,560 were males and 1,142 females.

Out of this, 494 of the applicants were placed in foreign employment, specifically in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. The sectors under which they were placed were mainly transport and communication, construction and security services.

Again, a total of 6,033 applicants gained employment through the agencies in 2013. A breakdown shows that 5,637 were local placements and 396 foreign.

The Head of the Employment and Statistics Unit of the NLD, Mr Anthony Awotwe, who disclosed this to the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in Accra, said the local job placements were in all sectors of the economy.

Challenges with private recruitment in Ghana

Occasionally, there are media reports of recruitment scams by some unscrupulous PEAs. Even the Ghana Police Service has recently been affected by such scams.

There have also been reports of Ghanaian migrant workers who are allegedly stranded outside, although they embark on such sojourns through the facilitation of some PEAs.

The common complaints of such migrant workers are the non-payment of wages for months and the harsh living conditions that they say they suffer.

Criteria for granting general license   

Mr Awotwe explained that the Labour Regulations, 2007, LI 1833, requires a person who desires to establish and operate a PEA to (a) register the agency with the Registrar General as a body corporate before applying to the minister to be granted a licence.

Then an inspection would be conducted on the premises or facility and staff of the said PEA by the representative of the Chief Labour Officer, and then the NLD seeks police clearance of the directors, whether or not they have been involved in any kind of criminal activity.  

He said when cleared, then the PEA pays a licence fee of GH¢500 for local purposes or operations and a certificate of commencement of business. 

“Even after the licence is granted and the PEA begins operating, it is required to provide the NLD with quarterly reports,” he said.

Criteria for foreign recruitment

Mr Awotwe said those into foreign recruitment would have to pay a deposit of GH¢25,000 as security to cover operations in case of the repatriation of illegal or illegitimate workers who may at a cost to the country.

However, he said those agencies could not immediately begin to recruit after the above processes but are required to provide the NLD with a copy of the registration or agreement between the local agency and the foreign company; labour request from the foreign company should also be made available; power of attorney from the foreign company; and a copy of the agreement that needs to be signed between the workers and the foreign company.

He said all those give room to the NLD to find out the corporate background or the genuineness of the employment that is to be given.

“After police clearance and securing visa, when the NLD is sure, the Chief Labour Officer will issue an exit permit with the list of the workers so any officer at the point of embarkation will know the workers have the right to travel outside the country,” he said.

The Labour Act

He said persons who secured employment through the PEA equally had the right to form or join a union of choice, although they may be outsourced to a third party. 

Mr Awotwe said companies were to make available in their contract agreement with their employees how much was paid them, because the law provides that workers should not be worse off in payment.

“The law provides for equal pay for equal work done in a particular situation. When a complaint is made of non-payment or lay off, they are invited for settlement. The PEAs also have the right or addendum to charge the employees but if they are outsourced then it means they are still bona fide workers of the agency,” he said. 

Migrant workers, whose travels are facilitated by licensed PEAs and the NLD, sleep in good conditions, have access to communication and transport to and from work.

Advice to persons seeking employment

 Mr Awotwe advised prospective job seekers to be watchful and look out for PEAs that are licensed for assistance.

“We have all these licensed PEAs so there is no point for people to fall victim to unscrupulous agencies. If anything, they must contact the department for any assistance. When in doubt, they can reach out to the NLD for clearance,” he said.