UGANDA: PROPOSED CHANGES TO EMPLOYMENT LAW
The current law governing employees in Uganda is contained in the 2006 Employment Act (“Act”) which should be read in conjunction with the Employment Regulations 2011. In November 2019, the government gazetted the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2019 (“Bill”) which has been introduced to address some of the deficiencies of the previous legislation. This is not yet law and will be discussed in Parliament where if it is accepted, it will go to the President for assent and will only then be passed into law.
We are not sure when, or if, the legislation will be passed however the following is a summary of the new proposed changes which will allow clients to adopt a pro-active approach and a seamless implementation when the legislation is enacted.
The Bill seeks to ensure that certain requirements apply to all casual employees regardless of the number of casual employees and/or the relationship to the employer.
The 2011 Regulations stated that a casual employee who is employed for more than 4 months is entitled to a written contract and all rights and benefits extended to other employees. The Bill reduces the period from 4 months to 1 month and will provide additional protection for the health and safety of the casual employee.
- Company action: Re-examine and draft a policy regarding the employment of casual labour.
The Act prescribed that the employer and employee could agree on severance pay. The Bill seeks to legislate fixed severance pay as 1 month’s gross salary for each year service if the employee has more than 1 year of service; proved the employee has not been dismissed for gross misconduct.
The severance pay must be paid to the employee within 21 days from the date of expiry or termination of the contract of service.
- Company action: Ensure that all HR personnel are aware of the new legislation and the method of calculation.
Sexual harassment and abuse
The current Act only requires the employer to have a sexual harassment policy where more than 25 employees are employed (Section 7(4). The Bill amends this requirement and all employers will be required to have a sexual harassment policy, irrespective of the staff compliment.
The Bill also introduces the concept of prohibiting abuse, harassment (other than sexual) and violence against employees. Section 7A(2) of the Bill defines this as including physical abuse, intimidation, any action likely to cause injury to the health and safety of the employee, wrongful confinement and withholding basic necessities to the employee.
- Company action: Draft and circulate to all employees a Sexual Harassment and Abuse Policy which includes how complaints are lodged and handled by the company.
The Bill appears on the surface, to sanction a breastfeeding mother bringing her baby to work.
Employers must allow the mother one or more daily breaks or a reduction in the hours worked, to allow them enough time to breast feed for a period of 3 months following the employee’s return from maternity leave. The cumulative period of the daily breaks will not exceed 1 hour.
Importantly, these breaks are deemed to be hours worked and therefore the employee’s salary cannot be reduced. Further, the employer is required to provide a hygienic breast-feeding room near the workplace.
- Company action: Ensure that a specific place is designated for breast feeding.
The Act currently states that in the event that an employee was recruited more than 100 km away from the workplace, the employer must pay for the repatriation following the termination of the contract. Termination is defined as where the employee’s contract expires, the employee is terminated as a result of an accident or sickness or the employee is terminated by agreement with the employer. The Bill lowers the distance to 50km.
The Bill also regulates the payment of such repatriation- the minimum payment is 7km to 1 litre of fuel plus a sum of UGX 500,000.
- Company action: Amend the current HR Policy to 50km and ensure all HR personnel understand the calculation methodology.
The age of employing a child has been increased from 14 to 16.
- Company action: We cannot believe that any reputable company would be employing children, so we assume that no action is required.