The employment court has allowed five former employees of Absa Bank Kenya to testify on behalf of more than 70 others in a case where the former workers are seeking to be paid damages after exiting the lender in 2018.
Justice James Rika agreed with the former Barclays Bank workers that it was not necessary for all of them to give evidence and be cross-examined.
The judge said collective claims involving hundreds of employees, with common causes of action, such as in disputes involving mass redundancies are likely not to be expeditiously disposed of if all claimants are required to give oral evidence.
Three former employees have already testified in the case and the judge noted that the hearing took a span of two years.
Justice Rika wondered how long the remaining 76 will take to complete their testimonies.
“The prayer to call the 5 Claimants identified in the Application, as the last Witnesses for the Claimants, is allowed,” the judge said.
The former employees have sought compensation for unfair termination following a Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) in 2018.
They claim that even though they applied for VES, the application was not purely voluntary as claimed but that the environment that had been created in the workplace by the bank made the exit a softer option as most of them had allegedly undergone what they termed as discrimination and harassment through unreasonable capability hearings and low-performance ratings.
The former workers further complained that there was material concealment of information which had adverse consequences on their terminal benefits for instance being required to pay stamp duty and legal fees from their terminal benefits.
They also claimed that once the VES was completely rolled out in July 2018 and March 2019, their interest rates were changed from 6 percent to 13 percent, subjecting them to suffering.
It is their argument that the scheme was implemented in an illegal manner in an extremely unfavourable environment and harsh procedure, yet the Labour Office and their union were not involved at all.
The lender has denied the claims and successfully opposed an application by the former employees to make amendments to the petition, saying it was meant to cure inconsistencies and contradictory statements noted after three witnesses testified.
The bank further said the loan interest rates were retained at staff rates, pending the determination of the case.