It is the duty of employer to ensure that their employees receive the basic employment rights. Most of such rights are dictated by the Employment Act 2007 while others are contained in labour related legislations. If you are an employee, you must be aware of the rights that are due to you. No one has ever enjoyed what they don’t know they possess. You must therefore know your employee rights so that you enjoy them.
Under this column, Bitala & Co. Advocates is dedicated to letting you know about those rights. This being the first article in this series, I will only outline the rights and we shall discuss them subsequently, one by one. The sequence will be weekly. So, keep glued here!
While we discuss employee rights, we cannot omit to discuss employer duties, and employee duties. Rights and duties correlate. Reference may be made to duties when rights are mentioned. Also remember that it may be difficult to enjoy a right after an omission of a duty. Like most rights, employee rights have limitations. That is to say, they are not absolute. They may be limited to a certain extent. Where there is any limitation, we shall undoubtedly point it out; otherwise, we shall have misled you.
Do not forget to pick your phone and call us to make enquiries, or even to send an email asking about something. Every case is judged subject to its facts and depending on your circumstances, your employee rights may apply in a special way.
Employee rights are often stated in contracts and terms of employment and other work-place related documents such as the human resource manual, the health and safety manual, among others. So, it is important that while you are at your job, you have copies of all such documents which you will read at your pace or copies of which you can pass on to your advocate when things go topsy-turvy at work.
Even at the time of dismissal or any other form of termination from employment, an employee still has rights which may not be limited by the fact that their days on the job are numbered.
It is however most important to note that employee rights only accrue to employees. Who is an employee? An employee is a person engaged under a contract of services. Any person engaged under a contract for services is not an employee, and therefore cannot purport to have employee rights. This also means that employers need to look out on the status of the people with whom they work. For example, if a person visits your office upon your call or out of their proactive initiative say on weekly basis to attend to tech-related issues in your office, are they an employee or not?
To know the status of your engagement, please do not hesitate to use our online free consultation portal.
Also note that in the process leading to one’s employment, an applicant for a job has rights such as the right not to be discriminated against, which we have already discussed under “defending civic space” on our blog.
Once the applicant has secured a job and is an employee, then employee rights accrue to them. Every employee has a right to privacy. The employer may not without reasonable cause bug an employee’s phone or office, or even access the employee’s emails without the employee’s consent. Note that it is now common procedure and acceptable that an employer conducts a background check and make enquiries on the credit status of a potential employee, only if the potential employee consents to such checks.
An employee has the right to a safe work place, the kind that does not expose them to disease and other health hazards. It is also the right of an employee to be free from any form of discrimination at the work place on the basis of their gender, age, race or tribe.
Fair wages for work done must be paid to the employee. An employer must not penalize an employee in retaliation for filing a claim or a complaint against the employer. Commonly, this is known as the “whistle-blower right”
It is also the right of an employee to be given a work station and work to be done. Monthly leave, sick leave, maternity/paternity leave are also rights of an employee. An employee must be paid for overtime worked. Overtime is the extra time an employee puts in over and above the ordinary working time. Gender allocated washroom facilities must be provided to employees. In this age, employees need to look into the issue of being transgender.
An employee has the right to be heard before any disciplinary action is made against them. – No man shall be condemned unheard. Before termination, an employee must be given notice of such termination. Notice is usually of 30 days. If notice cannot be given, an employee has the right to “payment in lieu of notice” – the payment made to an employee instead of a 30 days’ notice.
There are the above and many more rights which we shall discuss on this forum, subsequently. Look out for the next article.
BY SAMALI BITALA
This article was written for Bitala & Co. Advocates’ Digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy
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