Speaking from an employer’s point of view, James Onen commonly known as Fatboy, has expressed dissatisfaction against the new Kenya Employment Bill, which seeks to jail or fine employers that call or text their employees after working hours or on weekends.
The Employment (Amendment Bill), 2021 proposed by Samson Cheragei, the Nandi Senator, will see an employer charged a fine of ksh 500,000, approximately shs.15 million, or face a one-year sentence in jail.
“As an employer, when I hear such a law being put in place, I think of other alternatives such as automation. In many countries, employers have increasingly adopted the use of machines at workplaces after the skyrocketing demands for minimum wage reaching $50 per hour. So I feel like this might be a double-edged sword because when in a job that requires a lot of flexibility, I don't think they should be advocating for laws like these,” he said.
However, Olive Najjuma, The Fatboy Show Co-host seconding the Bill, argued that many times employers disrespect non-working hours.
“If our working hours are 9am to 6pm and you call someone at 7pm or even 8pm and it's not a daily thing, then it's understandable. But there are employers that will contact you at 10pm or 11pm. Honestly, what is that you're telling your employees that can't wait until morning?”
In further contention, Fatboy gave an instance where a company could possibly lose an important financial deal and it may be inevitable for the employer to call their employees to work on it since it benefits both parties.
Nevertheless, Olive still held that time has to be respected, saying that those forking out the deal also have their working hours. She stated that some employees in higher positions may fail to perform their duties in time hence creating a situation that lays the burden on their subordinates.
“In organizations where there are numerous levels of hierarchy, with different ranking supervisors, someone will be sent an email regarding a certain issue at say 2pm and they decide to take a look at it at 10pm. Then that is when they now start sending emails requesting for responses.”
Fatboy, acknowledging the possibility of delayed responses to issues that can affect other employees, suggested that such an issue is an internal one that calls for resolvement inside the company without the need for a law establishment.
However Olive remarked that passing the law was an indication of how serious employees must have been suffering. “By the time it is turned into a law, it means that it has been highly abused. People don't just come out to demand for a law and parliament sits and decides to pass a bill if there’s no abuse.”
When passed into law, Kenyan employees will be protected against punishment or any other disciplinary action that they may be subjected to for refusing to respond to work-related communication outside working hours.
The Fatboy show is hosted by James Onen aka Fatboy, Olive, Sarah and Lesham every weekday from 6am to 10am on RX Radio.