March 2009 based on information from 2006

Name of the institution that manages work issues

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training

Department(s) responsible for Labour Inspection

The Ministry of Labour is currently divided into four departments: Administration, Labour Services, Occupational Safety and Health and Technical and Vocational Training. The Labour Services Department is divided into 5 sections, namely: The Inspectorate, Industrial relations, Employment Services, Worker Compensation and Field Services. The Occupational Safety and Health Directorate is divided into three sections, namely: Inspection Services, Industrial Hygiene, Information and Documentation. The Department of Labour Services – and within it, the General Labour Inspection Services – and the Safety and Health Inspectorate are entrusted with the tasks of promoting and enforcing labour laws.

Laws that cover the organization and functional composition

The Labour Relations Act 1996, the Malawi Employment Act 2000

Occupational Safety, Health and Welfare Act 1997

Scope of labour inspection

The General Inspectorate, aside from the enforcement of labour legislation, also undertakes labour relations, dealing with complaints, workers’ compensation activities and the registration of trade unions. In the district offices, labour officers deal with all labour administration services without specialization. The safety and health inspectors deal specifically with safety inspection, accident investigation and industrial hygiene. Safety and health inspectors perform technical inspections of boilers, hazardous plants and machinery such as lifts, hoists, cranes, pressure vessels, and more.

Local divisions

The General Inspectorate, in the three regional labour offices and in 29 district labour offices, carries out the labour inspection services. The health and safety inspectors provide services to the districts from the Headquarters and the two regional offices.

Programming and communication

The Labour Commissioner’s Office coordinates the inspection undertaken by both inspection units. There is no inspection policy to provide policy direction and inspection guidelines which the inspectors can follow.

There are currently no proper channels between regions and the central authority, to determine targets and objectives. There is a weak coordination of inspections between Headquarters and field offices and between labour and safety and health inspectors. The Chief Labour Officer is responsible for coordinating inspection services between Headquarters and Field offices, under the overall supervision of the Labour Commissioner.

Current reforms

The labour administration system is undergoing modernization under the leadership of the new Permanent Secretary. During 2004-2007, the project Improving Labour Systems in Southern Africa (ILSSA) was operational. The project was an ILO initiative aimed at improving labour administration in Southern Africa, and Malawi was one of the beneficiaries. The Project was also aimed at ensuring compliance with national labour laws. The project made positive contributions to the management and administration of the Ministry of Labour in Malawi.

Permanency of inspectors

Low salaries and limited career prospects, results in high rates of turnover and in some occasions, labour inspectors look for other sources of income in the form of a second employment, either self-employment or with the private sector. .

Trainings have been delivered to labour inspectors by international cooperation projects but there are neither systematic trainings nor training plans in which the training needs of inspectors are identified and met.

Selection process

Labour inspectors must pass a labour law examination after which they are issued a certificate of appointment which empowers them to inspect workplaces.

Background required

The minimum qualification for a labour inspector is a bachelor degree from a recognized University or “O” (Ordinary) level with not less than 4 years experience in labour administration work. Labour inspectors receive an induction course at the time of appointment. Labour inspectors receive specialized training which includes scholarship from Government and donors for postgraduate trainings.

Types of visits

The Law provides for a minimum of two visits to every workplace each year. This requirement is not implemented due to lack of human and material resources. Inspections have not been regularly and systematically undertaken in the last 2-3 years.

A new integrated inspection form has been introduced although it is still not widely used.

Role of preventive measures

The present system is particularly weak in the task of promoting the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases.


The planning of inspections is not systematic.

At present, there are neither registers nor records of the different establishments and inspection results at the headquarters or the field offices which does not facilitate follow-up and monitoring in the future.

The law provides that the Director of Occupational Safety and Health must be informed of any accident causing the death of a worker or disabling a person from carrying out his/her normal duties at the workplace. The existing inspection form collects information on hazards and non-compliance with the Health and Safety Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act, but the information is not systematically shared with the General Inspectorate.

There is no evidence of any dialogue between the ministry and the social partners with respect to labour inspections. Labour inspectors are unwilling to be accompanied by union leaders during visits because they have no legal mandate in conducting labour inspections and because they are not trained as such. Labour inspectors hold consultations with union leaders before performing inspections in the organisations with unions. They also hold meetings with them to brief them on the labour conditions before leaving the undertaking.

Malawi ratified Convention No. 81 in 1965 and Convention No. 129 in 1971.

To see the CEACR comments made to Malawi on Convention No. 81 click here: /ilolex/cgi-lex/

To see the CEACR comments made to Malawi on Convention No. 129 click here: /ilolex/cgi-lex/