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Bill proposes Sh500K fine for employers who call staff outside working hours

If passed, employers found guilty of breaking the law would slapped with a fine of Sh500,000 or a one-year prison sentence.

Woman working from home and drinking coffee | Credit: FG Trade

Employees in Kenya are set to benefit from a new bill that, if passed, will make it illegal for employers to contact them outside of regular office hours.

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The Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2022, introduced by Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, aims to prevent employers from intruding on their employees' personal time, and promote a healthy work-life balance.

If passed, employers found guilty of breaking the law would slapped with a fine of Sh500,000 or a one-year prison sentence.

This bill is a new version of the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which failed to pass in Parliament.

The bill requires employers to formulate a policy that outlines the circumstances under which they can contact their employees during non-work hours.

According to Cherargei, this policy must be created after consulting with the employees or, where applicable, the trade union.

Employers with more than ten employees will be required to consult with the respective employees or trade union.

The bill also seeks to provide employees with the right to disconnect from work during non-work hours and not engage in official duties.

In addition, the bill states that when an employer has no specific work-hour arrangement with an employee, the latter is not obligated to respond to work-related communications outside of regular office hours and is entitled to compensation for doing so.

The proposed law also says that employees should not be reprimanded, punished, or subjected to disciplinary action if they disregard work-related communication during non-work hours.

Senator Cherargei stated that the bill aims to address increased employee burnout and the erosion of employee leisure time due to digital connectivity.

He also mentioned that the bill will not harm businesses as long as the nature of the business requires shifts or extension of working hours to meet business demands.

Working from home has brought about a number of changes in the way Kenyans work and live.

One of the most significant changes is the erosion of employee leisure time. The digital connectivity that enables us to work from anywhere has also made it easier for employers to contact employees outside of regular office hours.

This has led to a blurring of the lines between work and personal time, making it difficult for employees to disconnect from work and fully enjoy their leisure time.

Additionally, the flexibility of working from home can also make it more challenging for employees to establish a clear work-life balance, as they are constantly connected to work and can find it hard to switch off.

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