Labour Bill Sails Through Parliament

PARLIAMENT has passed the Labour Amendment Bill which seeks to remove the clause allowing termination of job contracts on notice, grants employed women three months paid maternity leave for each pregnancy, removing the one-year qualifying period and the limit of three terms of paid maternity leave, as part of Second Republic’s efforts to grant women and workers full equality and rights.

The Child Amendment Bill which seeks to expand children’s rights also passed last Thursday, while the Electoral Amendment Bill will be recommitted to the National Assembly to consider amendments made in Senate.

Both the Labour Amendment Bill and Child Amendment Bill now awaits transmission to the President for his assent before becoming law.

In terms of the current labour law, maternity leave is granted for a period of 98 days on full pay to a woman employee who has served for at least one year and limits the number of periods of such leave to three by any one employer.

But the new labour law removes the qualifying time and the number of times maternity leave is granted as Government seeks to align the Labour Act with the Constitution.

Other provisions in the Labour Amendment Bill include the desire to curb child labour by increasing the maximum penalty for a person found guilty of conducting child labour with the maximum sentence raised from two to 10 years.

The Bill will also give clarity on retrenchment of employees where an employer has tried to minimise their obligations to staff by giving most workers fixed-term contracts rather than permanent posts.

The proposed law seeks to cover the difference between employees on permanent contracts and fixed term contracts by providing that an employer who employs the majority of their employees on fixed term contracts will have to make use of retrenchment provisions when the contracts are terminated, rather than just give the notice set out in a fixed term contract.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who was steering the Bill in Senate said Government through the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare has been seized with the process of reviewing labour laws in Zimbabwe since 2010 with the aim of aligning them with the Constitution of Zimbabwe and ratified International Labour Organisation conventions.

“The review seeks to promote the ease of doing business in the labour market through streamlining and promotion of timely conclusion of processes.

“I will confidently say that the Labour Amendment Bill, is a product of extensive stakeholder consultations over a number of years and contains the main various provisions,” said Minister Ziyambi.

The Bill provided protection to employees against discrimination by entrenching the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and gender.

“We have a mandate to ensure that all gaps in the law are provided for through law reform. Our law did not provide for protection against violence and harassment at the workplace, including violence and harassment of a sexual based nature or gender-based nature and unfair labour practices.

The Bill closes the gap by providing the protection,” he said.

“We have noted with concern that employers in Zimbabwe are adopting a situation whereby they keep extending fixed contracts. This is not desirable in labour law and the Bill has a clause providing that a fixed term contract cannot be for a period that is less than 12 months, unless the employment is for seasonal or casual work or for the performance of a specific service.”

He said the Bill also seeks to award employees protection regarding retrenchment packages by imposing an obligation on the employer to pay retrenchment packages to employees.

Commenting on the Bill in Senate, Mashonaland Central Senator Angeline Tongogara said Government had managed to transform the welfare of workers to date.

“The conditions of workers were gradually improved by our Government. President Mnangagwa always talks about production because if we relate well with workers, sit down and come to an agreement and iron out differences that you may have, there is production.

So collective bargaining is very important because if you are an employer, you should know what you are going to get from your enterprise,” said Senator Tongogara.

Midlands Senator, Morgan Komichi described it as overdue.

“The nature of every employer is that they wish to exploit people or have them work for them for free. We have the history of slave trade that took place 401 years ago. They forcibly took over a million Africans to work for them.

We also recall that costs that constitute profit or loss calculation, the biggest factor is labour that determines the margin of profit. So employers ensure that they reduce labour costs by all means,” said Senator Komichi.

Harare Metropolitan Senator Godfrey Gijima (Zanu PF) commended Government for bringing the Bill saying it will bring harmony on the workplace.

Bulawayo Metropolitan Senator Khalipani Phugeni (MDC-A) said there was need to treat both workers from the public and private sector equally.
If we carry on in this trajectory of classifying our workers as public sector workers and private sector workers, we run the risk of running a two tier country where we have class A and class B of our people and this Parliament will then be seized with creating laws for a certain class of people which goes against the letter and spirit of the Constitution that we are all equal, that there is no difference based on gender, ethnicity or even class in society,” said Senator Phugeni.

A labour expert, Mr Courage Ruvinga said Government has taken several measures to ensure equality among men and women in the labour force.

“There is the quota where 60 seats in the National Assembly have been reserved for them and in the Senate, party lists for the proportional representation senators must alternate the genders with a woman taking the first position.

“State entities must have equality on their boards, and the convention has arisen that the chairman and vice-chairman should be of different gender,” said Mr Ruvinga.

  • Source: The Herald

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *