- Nandi Senator Cherargei is the sponsor of the Bill that seeks to give relief to the Kenyan workers who have been forced to work beyond the stipulated time.
- The Bill is set for Third reading in the Senate this week.
Senators have backed the bill seeking to bar bosses from calling or assigning duties to their staff outside the agreed working hours.
They have unanimously supported the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2021, putting Kenya on the way to become the first country in the region to allow its employees to disconnect from work.
The lawmakers argued that most employees have been forced to work round the clock, including odd hours, as result of phones and emails from their bosses giving them assignments.
This, they said, has led to fatigue of the workers as they can no longer rest or have quality time with their families.
“Technology has led to employees being called late at midnight and yet some of them are non-essential staff. Most of these issues have led to break-down of families and lack of quality time,” Nandi senator Samson Cherargei said.
As a result of bosses calling their junior at odd hours, Cherargei said, many families have been broken.
“When your boss calls you at night - especially if it is of the opposite gender - you might need to give a proper explanation to your spouse as to who that person is,” he held.
“Let us learn to disconnect from work after working hours. The bosses should not have a leeway after working hours unless it is essential,” he added.
Cherargei is the sponsor of the Bill that seeks to give relief to the Kenyan workers who have been forced to work beyond the stipulated time.
The Bill states the employee can decide not to take assignments, answer phone calls and reply to emails and messages from their bosses outside the working hours, without any repercussions.
Employers who violate the right to disconnect will risk Sh500, 000 fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding a year or both.
The Bill is set for the Third reading in the Senate this week.
Thereafter, it will be sent to the National Assembly for consideration before it is taken to the President for assent.
“God willing before we go to the 2022 General Election, this Bill will be assented to and become law,” the senator said as he pushed for the fast-tracking of the legislation.
Kitui senator Enock Wambua held that the Bill seeks to anchor the chapter of the Constitution that speaks to the Bills of rights as well as labour rights as captured in Articles 41 and 43.
“We appreciate the fact that with changing times and advancements in technology, the work environment and the working space has moved from the office block to the phone.
“However, that does not make my phone a public space because it is still a private space and a private property,” he said.
“With the availability of platforms for virtual meetings such as zoom and others on phones, when you go to a house at 9pm., you may find the husband attending a Zoom meeting with their employer, the wife is in another Zoom meeting with another employer, a son is another Zoom meeting with an employer and so forth.
“We must also protect the social fabric of this country and respect family time,” he said.
On her part, while supporting the Bill, nominated senator Getrude Musuruve called for critical thinking as the law may create disharmony between the employer and employee.
“There are instances when employees are called upon just to show their loyalty to organisations,” she said.
“We have rights of employees and rights of employers. Therefore, there is need to ensure that this Bill is not bringing confusion among employees and employers,” she added.
Nominated senator Isaac Ngugi said the Bill, if passed into law, will bring order at workplace and ensure rights are not violated by their bosses.
“A number of companies or employers force their employees to work from 6am up to midnight. They are expected to report on time the following day, failure to which, they are punished. This amendment is going to bring sanctity,” he said.