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Workers should know their rights to avoid exploitation

Workers display their skills during the Labour Day Celebrations at Uhuru Park in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU
Workers display their skills during the Labour Day Celebrations at Uhuru Park in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU 

Today being Labour Day, I saw it fit to highlight some of the workers’ rights in Kenya.

Labour rights are considered to be constitutional rights. Article 41 of the Constitution provides that all employees have the right to receive remuneration for work done, work in healthy environment, can form and join trade unions and finally have the right to strike.

Under the Constitution employers also have the right to join employer organisations as well as participate in their activities.

The Constitution contains further provisions on employee rights such as Article 74 which protects all persons from inhuman treatment, including forced labour and discrimination. While Article 80 gives citizens the right to form associations including trade unions.

The employer-employee relationship is typically contained in the letter of employment or a contract and it sets out the basic terms of employment.

The Employment Act outlines the particulars which should be contained in the employment contract. It is important to read through the Employment Act to ascertain your rights as an employee. A lot of people are not aware of their rights as employees and are therefore taken advantage of.

The Employment Act further outlines workers’ rights such as minimum working conditions, sets out the hours of work and other entitlements such as leave.

There are three main types of leave under the law namely annual leave, maternity leave and sick leave. The other types of leave recognised under the law include compassionate and study leave.

The Act stipulates the minimum number of days that an employee is entitled for leave. However, the employer may choose to extend the number of leave days.
Minimum wage in Kenya is stipulated under the Regulation of Wages Act.

Organisations spell out staff rights in employment contracts or human resource policy. On being hired for a certain position, it is important to understand the terms of engagement and as well as the human resource policy of the institution that you will work for.

Labour law is too wide to write on and exhaust, in this column. However, there are certain resources that will help you understand the employment law environment in Kenya, the main one being the Employment Act. In the event of a dispute with your employer, the law sets out the manner in which the dispute shall be resolved.

The practice is that the employer can resort to various disciplinary measures under the law such as warning letters, verbal warning, demotion, salary cuts or may dismiss the employee as provided for under the law.

The Employment and Labour Relations Court has jurisdiction to hear various industrial disputes. Happy Labour Day.

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