What is employment?

Employment means  working in a certain trade. It means the state of working and being paid for the work done. It also means giving work to a person. For the purposes of this article, we shall refer to employment to mean the second and the third definition.

It is very important to know that for there to be employment, there must be a contract of service. This doesn’t mean that employment whose terms are not expressly written down in a contract of service is irremediable. However, a contract of services may be oral, or it may be imputed from the conduct of the employer and employee in question and from other existing facts.

What the law requires to be expressly written down are the particulars of employment. Where there is a contract of service, it must contain those particulars. The statutory particulars of employment are: the name, age, permanent address and sex of the employee; the name of the employer; the job description of the employment; the date of commencement of the employment; the form and duration of the contract; the place of work; the hours of work; the remuneration, scale or rate of remuneration, the method of calculating that remuneration and details of any other benefits; the intervals at which remuneration is paid; and the date on which the employee’s period of continuous employment began, taking into account any employment with a previous employer which counts towards that period; and any other prescribed matter.

Employees are often in lesser bargaining positions with their employers and an employee may refrain from asking for a written contract of service just so that they do not lose their job. It is therefore important that when such an employee, one who doesn’t have a written contract of service, seeks advice from a legal practitioner on how to go about it. Should such an employee want to enforce their rights in court or even before a labour officer, it is of utmost importance that they seek advice from a labour law practitioner.

A contract of service sets down the terms, conditions and understanding between the employer and the employee. Basically, in employment, the employer determines how, when and where work is done. Sometimes, the status of a person working for or with another person is unknown to worker and they cannot tell of they are employees or self-employed independent contractor position.

Usually the contract of service is personal and cannot be assigned to another person. A provision for assignment may mean that the person to whom certain work has been given is self-employed or an independent contractor.

Like all contracts, a contract of services makes provision for the offer of the job, the employee signifies their acceptance to the job by setting their hand onto the document containing the contract or signifying their assent to the terms by electronic means. The contract also makes provision for the mutual obligation of the employer and the employee and for the price of the having work done/receiving pay.

An employee has the right to be paid for the work they do. An employee may earn a salary or a wage.

Who is an employee?

The Employment Act 2007 (laws of Kenya) defines an employee as a “person employed for wages or a salary and includes an apprentice and indentured learner”. A similar definition is in the Employment Act 2006 (laws of Uganda) where an employee is defined as any person who has entered into a contract of service or an apprenticeship contract, including, without limitation, any person who is employed by or for the Government of Uganda, including the Uganda Public Service, a local authority or a parastatal organization but excludes a member of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces.

From the two laws, it is clear that an intern is an employee. It therefore goes without saying that an intern inherently enjoys the rights of an employee at the work place.

Employment must be voluntary. The law forbids forced labour. Forced labour is work which is imposed on a person using threats of a penalty or force. It is work done involuntarily.

So, if you are in any position of employment, we shall proceed on the presumption that you are voluntarily on the job. If you are being forced to work against your will, then, for further advice, talk to a lawyer here.

At work, an employer has several duties towards an employee. An employer has the duty to give work to an employee. If no work is available, then the employer should terminate the employee’s contract on ground of redundancy. The employer is also obliged by law to provide the employee with a favourable environment when they can perform their duties. The health and safety of the employee should also be taken care of by the employer, at the work place. There should also be means to present and provide redress to any grievances that the employee may have.

Those duties may be contained in the contract of service, which is also known as a contract of employment or an employment contract. The duties and rights may also be contained in other documents which form part of the employment contract such as the human resource manual, the code of conduct and such other documents.


This article was written for Bitala & Co. Advocates’ Digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy

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