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Employers to face a Sh500,000 fine for failure to compensate overtime hours

Employers will now face a Sh500,000 fine for failure to compensate overtime hours according to new legislation.

Under this proposed legislation, an employer who compels his employees to work outside of office hours and fails to compensate them will face a fine of Sh500,000 or a one-year prison sentence.

As the Senate begins to collect views from stakeholders and members of the public, the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2021, drafted by Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, has been met with conflicting emotions.

It also states that an employee can ignore calls or any other kind of communication from their employer, such as email or text, in order to accomplish some obligations outside of working hours.

“Where an employer contacts an employee during the period when there is no mutually agreed out of work hours, the employee shall not be obliged to respond,” the Bill reads in part.

The Bill defines “out of work hours” as hours other than those agreed upon between an employer and an employee in the contract of employment.

“This Bill seeks to address increased employee burnout. Digital connectivity has also been noted to be slowly eroding leisure time for employees hence affecting their work-life balance.

“The principal object of the Bill is to provide for the right to disconnect in the digital age. The right of employees to have their personal time and privacy respected,” Cherargei said as he defended the proposed law.

The Federation of Kenya Firms (FKE) has requested Senators to vote against the bill, claiming that it is too prescriptive by requiring employers to adopt policies to monitor employee phone usage outside of working hours.

“If the nature of the business requires such shift system or extension of working time to meet the business demands, then such prescriptive nature will kill enterprises,” FKE Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo said.

Mugo further argued that by passing the Bill, the Senate will aggravate the employment situation for the youth and women in Kenya.

“The Bill will have an unintended adverse consequence on employment of youths and women in this country and who are most vulnerable. The sectors and nature off work to be highly impacted on by this Bill are the low to middle level skilled and service sector operations. These areas predominantly employ youth and women in Kenya,” she stated.

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