Employing Workers in Kenya describes that though labor relations in Kenya are generally sound and the Kenyan labor market is more flexible than that of most African countries, a package of five new labor laws enacted just weeks before the election represents to employers a difficult and costly turn of events. The practical implications of a number of new worker-friendly provisions, including increased allowances for leave and disability, remain highly contested.
Again, however, the great majority of Kenya’s workforce is employed outside of the formal sector, so the actual reach of the labor market laws and institutions discussed here extends to a small fraction of the economy. This highlights how essential it is for Kenya to shape and administer its labor and other regulatory reforms with the goal of minimizing barriers that keep microenterprises and their workers locked into the informal economy. Such workers need social protections at least as much as those in the formal sector.
Kenya’s New Labor Law Regime of Employing Workers in Kenya
Kenya’s new labor law regime of Employing Workers in Kenya states just weeks prior to the election, a set of five draft laws pertaining to labor relations were seized from the drawing board where they had been in development for at least five years and, to the delight of the nation’s labor unions, were quickly debated and enacted. The five new laws are a mix of basic labor principles that bring Kenya into line with international labor standards, and additional provisions that make formal employment in Kenya a very generous proposition.
The five new Labor rules for Employing Workers in Kenya are as follows;
- Employment Act,
- Labor Relations Act,
- Labor Institutions Act,
- Work Injury Benefits Act,
- Occupational Health and Safety Act
Employment Act in Relation to Employing Workers in Kenya
The new Employment Act for Employing Workers in Kenya addresses the minimum terms and conditions of employment in Kenya. It specifically prohibits forced and child labor, sexual harassment, and discrimination on the basis of disability, HIV/ AIDS status, and other known conditions. The act increases the age of a “child” from 16 to 18 years, thus harmonizing the definition within the Employment Act with Kenya’s Children’s Act. Although employers do not object too many of the core provisions of the employment Act, they contend that a number of its provisions will drive up the cost of formally employing workers. Through representative associations and the media, employers have specifically objected to the creation of an insurance scheme to benefit employees who are made redundant and the rapid conversion of “casual” workers into workers with formal term contracts.
Labor Relations Act for Employing Workers in Kenya
The Labor Relations Act for Employing Workers in Kenya generally aspires to bring Kenya into compliance with the major labor rights endorsed by the International Labor Organization. The act secures the freedom of association for both employees and employers, streamlines registration of workers’ and employers’ Organizations, promotes democratic practice in lawful collective groups; asserts individual and collective group rights; and provides guidelines pertaining to the right to strike. The act also attempts to streamline trade dispute resolution mechanisms and gives specific time-frames for dispute disposal.
Labor Institutions Act for Employing Workers in Kenya
The Labor Institutions Act for Employing Workers in Kenya establishes and strengthens institutions which deal with labor relations, such as a new National Labor Board, the National Industrial Court, wages councils, and employment agencies. One aim of the act is to decentralize the National Industrial Court; a division of the Ministry of Labor which is currently based only in Nairobi and, until relatively recently, has only employed one judge. This will definitely affects Employing Workers in Kenya.
Work Injury Benefits Act for Employing Workers in Kenya
The Work Injury Benefits Act for Employing Workers in Kenya endeavors to update the level of benefits due to workers who are injured on the job. However, it also contains certain provisions to which employers objected and were deemed invalid by a High Court ruling in March 2009. For example, in its original form, the act provided for 96 months of full pay to workers who are disabled on the job, a provision that employers called onerous. The act also placed arbitration of disability claims in the jurisdiction of a National Labor Court and disallowed claims pertaining to these issues before the regular courts. In all, the High Court nullified nine sections of the act, including a requirement that employers offer compulsory insurance for workers from a pool of underwriters approved by the Ministry of Labor. This affects Employing Workers in Kenya. The court also invalidated a provision that allowed employees injured in a workplace to seek a medical exam from a physician of their choice without a reference from the employer’s doctor. The decision leaves the issue of insurance coverage for workplace injuries unresolved.
Occupational Health and Safety Act for Employing Workers in Kenya
The Occupational Health and Safety Act for Employing Workers in Kenya aspire to update worker health and safety law and practice in Kenya. Among other provisions, the law expands the coverage of health and safety law to all workplaces, rather than the relative few that were previously covered. It abolishes employment of children in workplaces, encourages entrepreneurs to set safety targets for their enterprises, promotes reporting of workplace accidents, dangerous occurrences, and ill health, and aspires to promote a “safety culture” at workplaces through education and training. Although employers have not vocally opposed most of these provisions, there does appear to be a lack of awareness about how they will be implemented. Employers have also asked that the new provisions be phased in over time, rather than enforced immediately. This affects Employing Workers in Kenya.
Implementing Institutions for Employing Workers in Kenya
Several institutions are on the forefront to implement the laws set out that affect Employing Workers in Kenya. They include, Ministry of Labor which is charged with implementing and enforcing the new labor laws, Industrial training and human resources development. The ministry supports a number of worker training initiatives in Kenya, including several dedicated vocational institutions located throughout the country, National Social Security Fund, Labor unions, Employers.
Read more in Business Training in Kenya.
Recommendations on Employing Workers in Kenya
Resolve outstanding disputes pertaining to the new regime of labor laws as soon as possible.
Employing Workers in Kenya should integrate labor expertise into programs and policies pertaining to private sector development.
Launch a reform of the national social security system. This will help in Employing Workers in Kenya.