New Labour Bill, a ray of hope

Online Desk |  1 year ago | local

Workers will soon enjoy enhanced legal protection against gender-based violence and harassment at the workplace while employers will be compelled to pay men and women equally for the same work, and give contract workers rights more in line with those of permanent staff if the recently gazetted Labour Amendment Bill is passed into law.

The amendment also proposes to close loopholes in maternity pay and ensure that retrenchment packages are as fair as possible.

According to the memorandum of the Bill, the proposed law seeks to amend the Labour Act to align with Section 65 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the International Labour Organisation Conventions ratified by Zimbabwe and so provide rights to fair and safe labour practices and standards.

It also seeks to promote ease of doing business principles through streamlining and promoting timely conclusion of processes, particularly the labour dispute settlement and retrenchment processes.

The Bill is a product of extensive consultations among representatives of Government, business and labour within the auspices of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum. One clause would amend the Act by including the definitions of “gender-based violence and harassment and violence and harassment.

The addition of these definitions would expand the protection given to employees from the actions of their employers or other employees.

Another clause obligates employers to pay employees equally for work of the same value.

The new provision broadens the scope of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value to tackle occupational sex segregation in the labour market, the memorandum further reads.

The Act would be amended, to prohibit violence and harassment at the workplace, including violence and harassment of a sexual-based nature or gender-based nature, by including as unfair labour practice the actions by the employer who engages in actions that amount to violence and harassment.

The Bill would also compel employers, to ensure that women employees have the right to fully paid maternity leave for a period of three months by removing qualifying periods, prescribed intervals for maternity and a maximum number of times for enjoying the right to maternity leave under one employer.

The penalty for employing young persons (engaging in child labour) will be increased from two to 10 years with a view to providing a more deterrent sanction given the backdrop of increasing trade sanctions on goods produced in child labour prone markets.

The Bill also provides that an employer who employs the majority of his or her employees on fixed term contracts will have to make use of retrenchment provisions when the contracts are terminated. It also provides for termination of contracts for breach of express or implied conditions of service after a due process in line with applicable and established code of conduct or agreed disciplinary procedure.

The Bill also makes provisions to ensure that an employers obligation to pay the retrenchment package to his or her employees is fulfilled, taking into account any employer that deliberately diminishes his or her capacity to pay the retrenchment package and also making sure that employees are free to make representations to the Retrenchment Board where they allege that an employer has the capacity to pay a better retrenchment package than that offered.

It also provides a process for effecting enforcement of non-payment of a retrenchment package through the Labour Court.