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Your Handy Guide through Kenyan Labour Laws

In Kenya, like in many other countries, labour laws play a crucial role in ensuring fair treatment and protection for employees and employers. Whether you’re an employer looking to hire or a worker seeking to understand your rights, it’s essential to have a solid grasp of Kenyan labour laws. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the key aspects of these laws and provide examples to help you better understand how they work in practice.

There are a number of labour laws accessible and implementable that employers and employees should be aware of. These include but are not limited to: –

  1. Minimum Wage Regulations, 2013: These regulations set out the minimum wages for different categories of employees in various sectors, ensuring fair compensation.
  2. Labour Institutions Act, 2013: This law establishes various labour institutions such as the National Labour Board, responsible for reporting  and advising the Minister on all matters concerning employment and labour 
  3. Work Injury Benefits Act, 2007: This Act provides compensation to employees for work-related injuries and occupational diseases.
  4. Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2007: It governs workplace safety and health standards, requiring employers to provide a safe working environment for employees.
  5. Labour Relations Act, 2007: This law covers issues related to trade unions, collective bargaining, and dispute resolution in the labour sector.
  6. The Employment (General) Rules, 2015: These regulations specify employment matters like work permits for foreign employees, apprenticeships, and employment of children.
  7. The Employment (Termination of Employment) Regulations, 2012: These regulations provide detailed guidelines on the termination of employment, including the notice periods, reasons for termination, and compensation.
  8. The Employment (Amendment) Act, 2020: This amendment introduced changes to employment laws, including provisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, maternity leave, and termination of employment during pregnancy.
  9. The Employment (Compensation) Act, 2010: This law provides for compensation in the event of injuries or death arising out of and in the course of employment.
  10. The Employment (Persons with Disabilities) Regulations, 2019: These regulations address the employment of persons with disabilities, ensuring equal opportunities and fair treatment.

Employment Contracts

Employment contracts are a fundamental part of labour laws in Kenya. They protect the interests of both employers and employees by clearly defining the terms and conditions of employment. These contracts can be oral or in writing, but it’s always advisable to have a written agreement to avoid disputes later on.

For example, when you apply for a job at any company and are given an employment contract outlining your terms of employment, the contract is a legal document that sets the terms and conditions of your employment, such as your salary, working hours, and responsibilities often referred to as the job description (JD).

Minimum Wage and Overtime

Kenyan labour laws stipulate a minimum wage that employees should be paid. Overtime rates are also outlined, ensuring that employees are compensated fairly for working beyond their regular hours. Employers must adhere to these regulations to avoid legal repercussions.

Say, John works as a security guard and often has to work extra hours. John should be aware that his employer is obligated to pay him at least 1.5 times his regular hourly wage for overtime work. Therefore, at that point when John is signing the contract of employment, he should enquire about overtime policies from the company. 

Working Hours and Rest Days

Our labour laws specify the maximum number of working hours per week and require employers to grant employees a rest day each week. This provision ensures that employees have adequate time to rest and maintain a work-life balance.

Termination and Notice Periods

Termination of employment must follow specific procedures outlined in Kenyan labour laws. Employers cannot terminate employees arbitrarily but must provide notice or compensation in accordance with the law. There are so many cases of employees winning cases because of wrongful dismissal.

In 2022, KRA had to compensate a former employee who was wrongfully terminated. The employee went ahead and filed his case with the Labour and Labour Relations Court in Kenya. He won the case.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

Both mothers and fathers are entitled to maternity and paternity leave, respectively, under Kenyan labour laws. These provisions support employees in balancing their work and family responsibilities. Companies should create policies around leave that is guided by the laws.

Workplace Safety and Health

Employers have a duty to maintain a safe and healthy working environment for their employees. This includes providing necessary safety equipment, and training, and adhering to health and safety regulations. Therefore employees working at a manufacturing plant should be provided with safety gear such as helmets and gloves to protect them from potential hazards. Employers are required by law to ensure workers’ safety at the workplace at all times.

Discrimination and Harassment

Labour laws in Kenya prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Employers must provide equal opportunities and a conducive working environment for all employees, regardless of their background.

Discrimination against a person due to their physical condition where the person is capable of working is illegal under Kenyan labour laws, which prohibit discrimination based on factors like gender, disability, or ethnicity.

Trade Unions and Collective Bargaining Agreements

Employees have the right to join trade unions and engage in collective bargaining to improve their working conditions. Employers, on the other hand, must respect these rights and negotiate in good faith. Indeed, the courts have stated that employees should not be discriminated against for being a part of a trade union. 

In conclusion, understanding current labour laws is essential for both employers and employees to ensure fair and legal employment practices. These laws cover a wide range of aspects, from employment contracts to workplace safety, and are designed to protect the rights and interests of all parties involved. By adhering to these laws, employers can create a harmonious and productive workplace, while employees can enjoy their rights and benefits. 

If you have any specific questions or concerns regarding Kenyan labour laws, it’s advisable to consult with a qualified legal expert who can provide tailored guidance based on your unique situation.

Article by Elizabeth Museo, Communication & Strategy, AMMLAW

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