6 reasons why the proposed changes to the Employment Act are unnecessary (aka Sakaja Bill)
6 months ago
The Pandemic Response and Management Bill, 2020 (Sakaja Bill) is coming up for second reading on 20th May 2020. I am concerned with the proposed changes to the Employment Act, 2007.
The proposal is as follows:-
- (1) Where a pandemic adversely affects the ability of an employer to pay salaries or wages—
(a) notwithstanding the provisions of the Employment Act, an employer shall not terminate a contract of service or dismiss an employee; and
(b) an employer shall not coerce an employee to take a salary cut.
(2) Despite subsection (1), where an employer is unable to meet his obligations to pay salaries or wages, the employer shall permit an employee to take leave of absence without pay for the duration of the pandemic.
(3) The Cabinet Secretary responsible for matters relating to labour may with the approval of Parliament, develop measures to cushion employers and employees during the pandemic.
I present the following 6 points in opposition to the proposals:-
- Our labour laws are sufficient to protect employees against unfair labour practices. We have laws (including many decided cases) on unpaid leave, salary cuts and redundancy.
- The wording of the proposal suggests that an employee is supposed to apply for unpaid leave. This is not feasible. The law, as it is, is that the employer should consult employees on proposals for unpaid leave or salary cuts (Section 10(5) of the Employment Act).
- What is ‘the duration of the pandemic’?
- Is it not an unfair labour practice to have an employee on unpaid leave for what, in reality, is an unknown period?
- It provides false security to an employee.
- If passed, the effect is to shift the burden of social protection and employment protection from the State to employers.
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