Your Boss Calling You After Working Hours? He Or She Could Risk Ksh500K Fine

The Bill is also seeking to amend section 27 of the Employment Act, 2007 to introduce ‘the right to disconnect’ by employees...

Your Boss Calling You After Working Hours? He Or She Could Risk Ksh500K Fine
A man and woman working in an office. /FILE

Employees in Kenya could soon be imbued with new powers to have their employers pay a Ksh500,000 fine or face a jail term of one year, or both in the event the latter calls them outside regular working hours.

The Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was introduced by Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei in Parliament and aims to bar employers from intruding into the personal time of their employees to promote a healthy work-life balance.

The Bill is also seeking to amend section 27 of the Employment Act, 2007 to introduce ‘the right to disconnect’ by employees, effectively giving workers the power to ignore work-related calls, messages and emails during out-of-work hours.

It is also pushing for employers to put in place a policy to explain circumstances when they may contact employees during out-of-work hours and specify the nature of compensation for employees who work beyond the regular working hours.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei. /PEOPLE DAILY

“Where an employer has more than ten employees, such employer shall, in formulating a policy, consult the respective employees or, where applicable, trade union," reads the bill in part.

The bill also seeks to bar punishment by employers on employees who fail to heed to their demands of working overtime.

“An employee shall not be reprimanded, punished, or subjected to disciplinary action if the employee disregards a work-related communication during out-of-work hours,” the Bill states, with the proviso that such contact should be to address an emergency within the employee’s responsibility.

It also states that in case an employer has no specific work hours with the employee if the employer contacts an employee, the latter shall not be obliged to respond and, if one chooses to, they shall be entitled to get compensation.

“This Bill seeks to address increased employee burnout. Digital connectivity has also been noted to be slowly eroding leisure time for employees hence affecting their work-life balance,” adds part of the Bill.

Cherargei's new Bill is an improvement from The Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that he also proposed, but it failed to sail through.

During a debate in Senate on April 2022, he argued that, due to employers’ tendencies to contact workers after hours, workers had suffered dire impacts, including burnouts and broken marriages.

“Technology has led to employees being called late at midnight and yet some of them are non-essential staff. Most of these issues have led to the breakdown of families and a lack of quality time.

"When your boss calls you at night, especially if it is of the opposite gender, you might need to give a proper explanation to your spouse as to who that person is,” the senator said.

Working from home has brought a series of challenges in terms of maintaining the work-life balance, among them the increase in erosion of employee leisure time.

Owing to the digital connectivity that has allowed employees to work from anywhere in the country, this has also made it easier for employers to call their employees beyond the stipulated working hours.

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.

The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), through Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo, accused the Senate of micromanaging private enterprises and objected to the proposal to have employers develop policies to regulate phone usage by employees after hours, arguing that, if the phone belongs to the employer, employees are under obligation to answer.

A woman working in an office. /FILE