Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei has proposed a bill to introduce a law preventing employers from interfering with employees’ personal time by limiting contact after working hours.
According to Cherargei, the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2022 intends to amend section 27 of the Employment Act, 2007 by introducing ‘the right to disconnect’ by employees as it allows them to ignore work-related calls, messages and emails during out-of-work hours with an aim to promote a healthy work-life balance for employees.
The Bill proposes that an employer who is found in contravention to the law should be fined Sh500,000 or be jailed for one year or both.
“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… An employee shall not be reprimanded, punished or subjected to disciplinary action if the employee disregards a work related communication during out of work hours… In case of no specific work hours between the two parties, the employee has right to choose whether to reply on calls and messages without intimidation from their employer,” Cherargei said.
The move has however met criticisms from industry stakeholders led by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) who have rejected the proposition terming it a move to micromanage private enterprises.
While opposing the amendment Bill, FKE Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo observed that it would hinder the government’s objective to create jobs for youth and women and support the informal sector since operations of many companies will be affected either directly or indirectly.
“We hereby as FKE not agree with the proposed amendments because they not only present radical changes to the Employment Act 2007, but also introduce new stringent measures that will curtail the prerogative to manage enterprises by the owners automatically posing a challenge to industrial relations in Kenya,” Mugo observed.
The Director claimed that FKE had engaged the previous Parliament and had together resolved to drop the Bill insisting that the proposed amendments negate the very essence of managing enterprises freely to meet the demands and challenges posed by the market and ensure economy growth.
According to Mugo, the Bill fails to meet the simple threshold of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions that if approved, will create two repellant forces and indiscipline in workplaces between the employees and the employer.
Additionally, Mugo objects the move to have employers develop policies to regulate phone usage by employees after working hours, arguing that, if the phone belongs to the employer, employees are under obligation to answer.