Members of the National Assembly have declined to approve a Senate bill that would have allowed employees to ignore communications and tasks from their employers outside of regular working hours. The Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which was previously passed by the Senate, was brought to the National Assembly for consideration.

If enacted, the proposed law would grant employees the right to disconnect from work-related communications during non-working hours, based on the employer’s policy. The bill states that employees would not be obligated to respond to employers’ communications outside of agreed-upon working hours.

Furthermore, employers who compel their employees to work after hours without compensation would face a fine of Sh500,000 or a one-year jail term. The bill was championed by Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei.

During the parliamentary session, MPs unanimously supported the Labour Committee’s recommendation to reject the bill entirely, citing practical concerns. National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah urged the withdrawal of the bill, emphasizing its impracticality.

Contributing to the debate, Kangema MP Peter Kihungu criticized the bill for being discriminatory towards employers and lacking consideration for their welfare. He questioned how employers could contact employees during emergencies if the latter were allowed to disconnect from work entirely after hours.

Tharaka MP George Murugara argued that the bill violated existing employment laws by not granting employers similar rights to disconnect. He highlighted the principle of legality, stating that rights granted to individuals must be accompanied by corresponding obligations.

The Kenya Federation of Employers and the Association of Manufacturers also opposed the bill, expressing concerns about its potential impact on the business environment. Dagoretti North MP Beatrice Elachi objected to the bill, stating that it did not align with existing legislation, particularly regarding employee clustering under the Public Service Commission Act.

Elachi emphasized that employees agree to abide by institutional rules and regulations upon employment, suggesting that the bill’s provisions were either unrealistic or targeted at a demographic not currently present in the country’s workforce.

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