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Discover everything you need to know about Samoa

Hire in Samoa at a glance

Here ares some key facts regarding hiring in Samoa

Samoan Tala
GDP growth
GDP world share
Payroll frequency
Working hours
40 hours/week

Overview in Samoa

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Samoa, located in the South Pacific Ocean, is a Polynesian island nation comprising two main islands, Upolu and Savai'i, and several smaller islands. It features a tropical climate, lush landscapes, and a rich cultural heritage rooted in the Fā'a Samoa tradition, emphasizing family, respect, and communal living. Historically, Samoa was first settled by Lapita peoples around 3,500 years ago, and it became the first sovereign Polynesian nation in the 20th century after gaining independence from New Zealand in 1962.

The Samoan economy is primarily based on agriculture, tourism, and remittances, with key agricultural products including coconuts, taro, and bananas. The tourism sector is growing, driven by Samoa's natural beauty and cultural attractions. However, Samoa faces challenges such as economic vulnerability, outmigration, and climate change impacts.

The workforce in Samoa is diverse in skills, with a mix of semi-skilled and skilled workers in agriculture and tourism, and a growing number of professionals in areas like healthcare and ICT. The government and development partners are focusing on education and vocational training to address skill shortages.

Workplace culture in Samoa is influenced by Fā'a Samoa, with a strong emphasis on family and community obligations, respect for hierarchy, and indirect communication styles. Flexibility in work hours is common to accommodate cultural and religious activities. The traditional Matai system, where family chiefs hold authority, also influences organizational hierarchies in the workplace.

Overall, Samoa's economy and society are deeply intertwined with its cultural values, presenting both opportunities and challenges for economic development and employment.

Taxes in Samoa

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  • Payroll Tax (SWET/PAYE): Employers in Samoa must withhold payroll tax from employee salaries under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system, which uses a progressive tax rate. This tax is remitted monthly to the Ministry of Customs and Revenue.

  • National Provident Fund (NPF) Contributions: Both employers and employees contribute 5% of the employee's gross salary to the NPF, a mandatory social security program. Contributions are submitted monthly.

  • Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) Levy: Employers pay a levy to the ACC based on industry risk, funding accident insurance for employees. Payments can be annual or in installments.

  • Value-Added Goods and Services Tax (VAGST): Samoa has a standard VAGST rate of 15%, with exemptions for certain services like financial, medical, and educational services, and zero-rated for exported services. Businesses exceeding a turnover threshold must register and file VAGST returns monthly or quarterly.

  • Investment Incentives: Samoa offers reduced corporate income tax rates and exemptions from import duties for qualifying businesses in sectors like manufacturing and tourism. The Samoa Investment Corporation oversees these incentives.

  • Free Zone Incentives: Businesses in designated free zones enjoy benefits such as a 10-year corporate income tax exemption and customs duties exemption on imports and exports.

  • Taxation of International Business Companies (IBCs): IBCs benefit from a territorial tax system, exempting them from corporate income tax on offshore income and withholding taxes on dividends, interest, or royalties paid to non-residents.

Leave in Samoa

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  • Annual Leave: Under the Labour and Employment Relations Act 2013 (LERA) in Samoa, employees are entitled to a minimum of 10 working days of paid annual leave per year, with prorated leave for those who haven't completed a full year.

  • Scheduling and Unused Vacation Leave: Vacation leave scheduling should be mutually agreed upon by the employer and employee, considering business needs. Unused leave can be carried over, though employers may limit accrual.

  • Public Holidays: Samoa observes several public holidays including New Year's Day, Day After New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, ANZAC Day, Independence Day, Father's Day, White Sunday, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.

  • Other Types of Leave:

    • Sick Leave: Employees are entitled to 10 working days of paid sick leave annually.
    • Maternity Leave: Offers 6 weeks of paid leave, with an optional additional 6 weeks unpaid.
    • Paternity Leave: Up to 5 days of paid leave.
    • Bereavement Leave: 3 days of paid leave for the death of an immediate family member.
    • Special Leave: Available for civic duties, sporting, cultural events, and community responsibilities, with varying conditions.
  • Eligibility and Collective Agreements: Leave eligibility and conditions may vary by workplace and are sometimes enhanced by collective bargaining agreements.

Benefits in Samoa

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In Samoa, while there are no legally mandated employee benefits beyond the minimum wage and paid leave, employers have the discretion to offer additional benefits to attract and retain talent. The national minimum wage is set at WST $3.00 per hour, and the Labour and Employment Relations Act 2013 ensures paid annual leave, public holidays, and sick leave without wage deductions. Optional benefits that employers might provide include health insurance, maternity and paternity leave, superannuation schemes, flexible work arrangements, and various allowances. The public healthcare system offers basic services, but limitations exist, prompting some employers to offer private health insurance. Retirement planning includes the Samoa National Provident Fund, which is a compulsory savings scheme, and possibly private superannuation schemes offered by employers. Employees are encouraged to consider additional personal savings and investments for a more secure retirement.

Workers Rights in Samoa

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In Samoa, employment termination can occur due to mutual agreement, contract completion, notice by either party, or summary dismissal for serious misconduct. The Labour and Employment Relations Act (LERA) mandates notice periods based on the duration of employment, with options for payment in lieu of notice. Severance pay is not generally required except in cases of redundancy for employees with over two years of service.

Samoa's Constitution and anti-discrimination laws protect against discrimination based on various characteristics such as descent, sex, and religion, among others. Victims of discrimination can seek redress through the Ombudsman, the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, or the courts.

Employers have specific responsibilities under the Labour and Employment Relations Act 2013 to prevent discrimination and are required to ensure non-discriminatory practices in all aspects of employment. Additionally, the Samoa Occupational Safety and Health Act 2002 mandates employers to maintain a safe work environment, identify and mitigate hazards, and provide necessary personal protective equipment.

The standard workweek in Samoa is Monday to Friday, with a 7.5-hour workday, and includes a mandatory 30-minute lunch break. While specific ergonomic requirements are not detailed, general safety and health regulations are enforced to protect workers' well-being.

Agreements in Samoa

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In Samoa, employment relationships are regulated by the Labour and Employment Relations Act 2013 (LERA), which outlines various types of employment agreements:

  • Individual Employment Agreement (IEA): This is a standard contract detailing the terms of employment, including job duties, remuneration, working hours, and leave entitlements. It must be written in Samoan or English as preferred by the employee and requires three signed copies.

  • Fixed-Term or Specific-Purpose Contracts: These are used for temporary roles or projects and do not have a defined maximum duration under LERA, though renewals are meant to be exceptional.

  • Part-Time Employment Contracts: These specify the number of working hours per week, with benefits and entitlements adjusted accordingly.

Additional elements of employment agreements in Samoa include:

  • Basic Information: Identification of both parties, start date, job title, and role description.

  • Remuneration and Benefits: Details of salary, payment frequency, and additional benefits like health insurance and paid leave.

  • Leave and Entitlements: Specifications on annual leave, sick leave, public holidays, and other leaves such as maternity or compassionate leave.

  • Termination: Conditions and notice periods for termination, aligned with fairness and good faith principles.

  • Confidentiality and Intellectual Property: Clauses to protect sensitive information and outline intellectual property rights.

  • Dispute Resolution: Processes for handling workplace grievances.

  • Probationary Periods: Typically set at three months to assess employee suitability.

  • Legal Framework: Governed by LERA 2013, which covers service contracts and termination but does not explicitly mention probationary periods.

  • Confidentiality Clauses: These are crucial for protecting business secrets and typically extend beyond employment termination.

  • Non-Compete Clauses: Less common and enforceability is uncertain, but they must be reasonable in scope, duration, and geographic reach.

Collective Bargaining Agreements are also recognized, negotiated between trade unions and employers for specific groups of employees.

Remote Work in Samoa

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Remote work is gaining traction in Samoa, but lacks a formal legal framework. Existing laws like the Samoa Employment Relations Act 2012 and Occupational Health and Safety Act 2008 still apply to remote workers, covering rights and safety standards. Employers must ensure clear communication, performance management, and provide necessary training and support for remote employees. Technological challenges include ensuring reliable internet access and providing essential equipment. Employers also need to manage work-related expenses and comply with tax and social security requirements. Flexible work options such as part-time work, flexitime, and job sharing are also becoming popular, with legal protections under SERA ensuring fair treatment. Data security is crucial, requiring employers to implement robust protections and educate employees on best practices. Overall, both employers and employees share responsibilities in creating a secure and efficient remote work environment in Samoa.

Working Hours in Samoa

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  • Discrepancies in Standard Working Hours in Samoa:

    • The Samoa Public Service Commission (SPSC) specifies working hours for public service employees as 7.5 hours daily and 37.5 hours weekly, typically from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday.
    • Employer of Record Samoa (EOR) suggests a general standard for all Samoan employees, with up to 8 hours daily and 40 hours weekly.
  • Clarifications and Legal Framework:

    • It's possible that SPSC regulations apply only to public sector employees, while EOR standards might represent the private sector.
    • The 40-hour week could be a legal maximum, with SPSC setting a lower standard for public services.
    • For accurate regulations, consultation of the Labour and Employment Relations Act 2013 and individual employment contracts is recommended.
  • Overtime and Compensation:

    • Overtime is defined as hours worked beyond the standard 40 hours per week, compensated at a minimum of 150% of the regular pay rate.
    • Exceptions exist, such as "piece work" contracts, which may have different overtime provisions.
  • Breaks and Flexible Working Hours:

    • All employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid lunch break, typically between 12:30 pm and 1:00 pm.
    • The SPSC allows Flexible Working Hour Arrangements (FHA), requiring presence during core hours (9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm) but permitting negotiated break schedules.
  • Night and Weekend Work:

    • Employers must pay a night shift allowance for work outside standard hours, with rates negotiable or specified in collective agreements.
    • Saturday work typically incurs a penalty rate, while Sunday work, generally discouraged, entitles employees to double their usual pay rate.
  • General Advice:

    • For comprehensive understanding of specific regulations, consulting the full text of the Employment Relations Act 2012 and relevant industry awards or collective agreements is advisable.

Salary in Samoa

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Understanding competitive salaries in Samoa is essential for attracting and retaining skilled employees. Factors influencing salaries include job responsibilities, experience, industry, company size, education, and cost of living. Reliable salary data can be sourced from Samoa-specific salary surveys, job boards, and government resources. The current minimum wage is SAT$3.00 per hour. Employers may offer bonuses and allowances such as performance-based bonuses, 13th-month pay, and allowances for meals, transportation, mobile phone, and housing. Payroll practices vary, with common payment frequencies being fortnightly or monthly, and payments are typically made via electronic bank transfers. Employers must provide payslips detailing gross pay and deductions, adhering to regulations to avoid penalties.

Termination in Samoa

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In Samoa, the Labour and Employment Relations Act 2013 (LERA) governs the notice periods required for employment termination, which vary based on the length of service, ranging from no notice for less than three months of service to eight weeks for more than nineteen years of service. Exceptions include immediate termination for serious misconduct and the option for payment in lieu of notice. Employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements may specify longer notice periods and include severance pay provisions, which are not generally mandated by law but may be outlined in contracts or negotiated in cases of redundancy. The calculation of severance pay is not standardized and can be based on contractual terms, collective agreements, or negotiations. It is important for employees to understand their specific rights and obligations as outlined in their employment contracts and any applicable collective agreements. The LERA also details permissible grounds for termination, required procedures, and rights concerning unfair dismissal, emphasizing the need for a clear, written notice and a fair process, particularly in cases of misconduct.

Freelancing in Samoa

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In Samoa, the distinction between employees and independent contractors is primarily based on factors such as control, integration, remuneration, social security, dependence, and risk. Employees are under the employer's control and receive regular wages with social security contributions from both parties. Independent contractors operate autonomously, bear their own financial risks, and handle their own social security contributions. They are paid per project and are not economically dependent on one client.

Key considerations for independent contractors include drafting detailed written contracts that outline work scope, deliverables, and payment terms, and ensuring they are adapted to specific projects with clear language on expectations and dispute resolution. These contracts should also address the governance of the agreement, whether by Samoan law or another jurisdiction.

Contract negotiation is crucial, with contractors advised to demonstrate their value and establish a strong negotiation baseline by researching prevailing rates. Transparent communication about project scope and potential changes is essential for a successful partnership.

Independent contractors are common in industries such as IT, creative services, construction, tourism, and professional services. They must consider registering their business and with the Samoa Social Security Administration for benefits. Intellectual property rights are initially owned by the creator unless otherwise stated in the contract.

Freelancers should maintain clear records of their work, consult legal professionals for complex projects, and consider various insurance options for financial protection. Tax obligations include registering with the Samoa Revenue Authority, declaring income, and possibly handling Goods and Services Tax, depending on the industry and income level.

Health & Safety in Samoa

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Samoa's Occupational Safety and Health Act 2002, along with the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 2017, establishes a comprehensive framework to ensure workplace safety and health. Key aspects include:

  • General and Specific Duties: Employers are primarily responsible for providing a safe working environment, identifying hazards, managing risks, and ensuring employees use personal protective equipment (PPE) properly.

  • Workplace Conditions: Standards are set for physical conditions such as temperature, ventilation, lighting, and sanitation.

  • Specific Hazards: The legislation addresses dangers related to machinery, electrical safety, hazardous substances, and working in confined spaces or at heights.

  • Incident Reporting and Investigations: Employers must report serious injuries or deaths and maintain records. Investigations are conducted to prevent future incidents.

  • Enforcement and Penalties: Inspectors can issue notices and fines, and serious breaches can lead to imprisonment.

  • Health and Wellness: Provisions are made for first aid, health surveillance, and ergonomics to prevent work-related health issues.

  • Training and Consultation: Employers must train workers on safety and health, and workplaces with 20 or more workers should have health and safety committees.

  • Workplace Inspections: Inspectors have broad powers to ensure compliance, with inspections based on risk assessments and incident responses.

  • Accident Reporting and Compensation: Immediate reporting of serious workplace accidents is required, and the Accident Compensation Corporation handles claims for injuries and rehabilitation.

Overall, these regulations are designed to create a safe and healthy working environment in Samoa, with a strong emphasis on employer responsibility and worker training.

Dispute Resolution in Samoa

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Labor courts in Samoa handle employment disputes such as unfair dismissal, wage issues, discrimination, and safety violations, with the Labor and Employment Relations Court being the primary body. The court process includes filing a claim, mediation, a hearing, and a decision. Arbitration is an alternative where a neutral arbitrator makes a binding decision.

Key cases include disputes over dismissal, wages, discrimination, contract breaches, and safety issues. Samoa's labor laws are governed by the Labour and Employment Relations Act 2013 and related court rules.

Compliance audits and inspections across various sectors are conducted by entities like the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour, focusing on adherence to laws and regulations. Non-compliance can lead to fines, legal action, or reputational damage.

Whistleblower protections are outlined in the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2018, offering safeguards against retaliation and ensuring confidentiality. Practical advice for whistleblowers includes gathering evidence and considering anonymity.

Samoa adheres to international labor standards, having ratified key ILO conventions against forced labor, child labor, and discrimination, and promoting fair remuneration and consultation. These international standards significantly influence Samoa's domestic labor laws, ensuring worker rights and promoting ethical labor practices.

Cultural Considerations in Samoa

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In Samoa, a collectivist society, workplace communication is influenced by cultural values such as respect and harmony, often leading to indirect and formal communication styles, especially in traditional settings. Non-verbal cues are crucial, with significant emphasis on eye contact, posture, and silence, which can indicate respect or reflection. Samoan business interactions prioritize group consensus and relationship-building over individual gains, with negotiations focusing on trust, patience, and flexibility. Hierarchical structures dominate, with chiefs (matai) holding authority, impacting decision-making and team dynamics. Leadership tends to be transformational or servant-oriented, emphasizing collective goals. Samoa observes several statutory holidays and cultural events, which significantly affect work schedules and productivity, necessitating careful planning around these dates for effective business operations.

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