The labour laws of Kenya of 2007 improved the environment for employers, employees and trade unions. Parliament enacted five labour laws — the Employment Act, Labour Institutions Act, Labour Relations Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act and Work Injury Benefits Act.
The aim of the laws was to repeal and replace six core labour laws and bring them into conformity with the current challenges and demands of national development and international labour standards.
The law replaced the Employment Act and Regulation of Wages and Conditions of Employment Act. lt establishes minimum terms and conditions of employment. Unlike the repealed Act, the new one defines a number of common terms – probationary contract, migrant workers, worst forms of child labour, dependant, forced or compulsory labour and HIV.
lt also provides for prohibition against forced labour, discrimination in employment on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, mental or HIV status and sexual harassment.
lt deals with payment, disposal and recovery of wages, allowances and deductions of an employee. The major changes are that the employer cannot deduct employees wages exceeding two thirds. The previous law provided for deductions up to 50 per cent. Further, all employees are entitled to itemised payslips or salary statements. The law also provides for basic conditions of a contract of service – hours of work and annual, maternity and sick leave, housing, water, food and
medical attention. In the new provision, an employee is entitled to three months’ maternity leave. However, the employee shall not forfeit annual leave. The law introduces a 14-day paternity leave.
The legislation deals with termination and dismissal. For the first time, the law provides for payment of service pay for every year worked to an employee whose contract has been terminated. Further, the legislation provides that the Labour minister may require an employer to insure his employees against redundancy through an employment insurance scheme.
The employers are also required to justify termination of employment. The law introduces the concept of unfair dismissals. lt also regulates the engagement of children in employment. lt prohibits employment of children in any activity that constitutes child labour. It also sets the minimum age and conditions of employment of a child.
Employers are required to keep records and make them available for inspection. They are also required to notily the Director of Employment of vacancies, termination and abolition of offices. The law also outlines requirements for a foreign contract and sets out complaint procedures and jurisdiction in cases of disputes between the employee and
Labour Institutions Act
The law establishes institutions and organisations for the administration and management of labour relations the national Labour Board, the industrial Court, Committee of Inquiry, Labour Administration and Inspection, the Wages Council and Employment Agencies.
The law, however, does not apply to the Armed Forces, Kenya Police, Prisons Service, Administration Police and the National Youth Service.
National Labour Board
The members are appointed by the Minister for Labour and drawn from the most representative federation of trade unions and employers, independent members and Government officials. The boards role is to advise the minister on employment and labour, legislation, trade unionism and codes ofgood conduct.
It also advises on ILO issues, international or regional associations, systems of labour inspection and the administration of labour Acts, public employment service, productivity, appointment of wages councils and members of the Industrial
Other issues include setting compensation benelits, manpower development, registration, suspension and cancellation of registration of trade unions and employers organisations.
It is a pillar of industrial peace and was established to hear and determine industrial disputes referred by the Minister for Labour, register collective Bargaining Agreements ((]BAs) between employers and workers and promote the spirit of tri-partism between Government, employers and employees.
The Industrial Court was established in 1964 under the Trade Dispute Act (Cap 234). It got its current shape in 1971, when the Trade Dispute Act was amended. The Industrial Court can award compensation or order reinstatement. Its decisions are final. For the first time, the court has powers to grant injunctive relief prohibition, declaratory orders, award damages and specific performance apart from re – engagement and reinstatement of employees.
once appointed, the judge of the Industrial Court holds office until retirement, resignation or removal or death. In the old law, Industrial Court judges served on renewable five – year contracts.
The law empowers the Minister for Labour to appoint a committee of inquiry to look into trade disputes. The legislation provides for the offices of commissioner for Labour, Director of` Employment, Registrar of Trade Unions and other officials. lt advises the minister on fixing minimum wages and terms of`conditions ofservice for various sectors ofthe economy. The law requires that employment agencies – also called placement agencies – be registered with the Director of`Employment.
Work Injury Act
The law replaced the Workman’s Compensation Act. It introduces a legal framework compliant with ILO conventions related to co1npensation of` employees injured at work or who contract diseases and to extend insurance cover. Employers are obligated to obtain an insurance policy to cover the employer’s liability, register with the Director of Work Injuries Benefits and to keep records and make annual returns.
The law also provides tor the procedure of reporting accidents during employment. The limitation period for reporting is 12 months alter which the claim lapses. Compensation for disablement and death is also provided. The law provides for employers to provide medical aid to employees.
This includes first aid facilities, taking employees to amd from medicail faicility amd paiyment of medical expenses.