Minimum wage & New Bills
12 months ago
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As was expected, the President announced an 18% minimum wage increment on Labour Day. The primary rationale was to cushion workers against the effects of the current state of the economy. According to statistics obtained from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the rate of inflation in April 2016, January 2017 and April 2017 was 5.27%, 6.99% and 11.48% respectively.
Important facts about the minimum wage
- It applies to specific categories of workers, including: – general labourers, watchmen, nannies, domestic workers, caretakers, sweepers, messengers and artisans;
- The increase takes effect from 1st May 2017, the Legal Notice is normally published sometime in June;
- The increase affects those paid an hourly, daily and monthly wage;
- The monthly rate is exclusive of housing allowance whereas the hourly and daily rates are inclusive of housing allowance;
- The rate varies depending on the location of employment in Kenya; Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu is one category. All former municipalities as well as Mavoko, Ruiru and Limuru is another category. The rest of Kenya is the other category. The former earn more.
Workers are reasonably happy whereas employers have stated categorically that the increment is too high and businesses will most likely have to take steps to cushion themselves against this additional expense – this may be through job cuts or increase in product prices.
There is likely to be a series of deadlocks in CBA negotiations on wage increments. Since trade unions normally demand more than the minimum wage increment, employers are likely to resist this leading to reporting of numerous industrial disputes.
Two (2) important Bills were introduced in March. The first one is The Employment (Amendment) Bill 2017. The Bill proposes an amendment to Section 29 of the Employment Act on maternity leave. The current provision provides for maternity leave of three (3) months. The proposal is to give a female employee the right to extend the maternity leave for a period of three months without pay. The proposal is said to be in order to align to the ILO recommended duration of maternity leave as well as in recognition of the WHO recommendation for infants to be exclusively breastfed for six (6) months – the amendment will aid working mothers achieve this goal.
The second one is The Breastfeeding Mothers Bill, 2017. The preamble, provides, among other things, that the proposed Act is necessary to make provision for breastfeeding mothers and to provide for employers’ obligations towards breastfeeding working mothers in the workplace. A “baby” is defined as a child of up to twenty four (24) months old. The salient provisions include: –
A woman with a baby may breastfeed or express milk at a lactation place in the workplace; Every employer is required to establish a lactation place in the workplace. This place shall: –
- Be private;
- Be clean, quiet, private and warm;
- Not be a bathroom or toilet;
- Have a lockable door;
- Have a wash basin;
- Have a fridge for storing expressed milk;
- Have an electric outlet and lighting;
- Have a chair, table and a clean space to store equipment.
Employers are additionally required to: –
- Provide a physical environment that is safe for the baby;
- Provide appropriate programs that develop a baby’s cognitive, emotional, social and language abilities;
- Employ an adequate number of trained staff; and
- Provide nutritionally balanced meals and snacks daily.
It is an offence for an employer not to comply with the above. The penalty is a fine not exceeding Kshs. 500,000/= or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one (1) year or both.
The employer is to provide a reasonable break time to a breastfeeding mother for purposes of breastfeeding the baby or expressing milk. The break is part of the working hours and should not exceed 45 minutes in every four (4) hours.
The Bill also gives a breastfeeding mother the option of applying for a flexible working arrangement for purposes of breastfeeding or expressing. This is at the employer’s discretion but where the application is rejected, the employer is required to give a written statement.
The Bill further places an obligation on any person who owns or leases a public or private building that is accessible to the public which has a maximum occupancy of thirty (30) persons, to install a baby changing facility.
Whereas no woman should be forced to compromise the health of her child in order to make a living, I’m doubtful that the Bill will be passed without significant amendments.
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