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Government drafts Bill to ease working conditions
The Herald (Zimbabwe)
April 09, 2005

GOVERNMENT has drafted a Bill that seeks to ease working conditions, especially for women, by amending principal sections of the Labour Relations Act.

If passed into law, the Bill to be introduced as soon as the Sixth Parliament roars into life, will increase maternity leave for women from 12 to 14 weeks and allow women in their first year of employment to go on maternity leave with full benefits.

Currently, women who fall pregnant in their first year of employment go on unpaid maternity leave.

In an interview yesterday, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Cde Paul Mangwana, said the Bill would be tabled in Parliament soon.

"The current law infringes on the rights of women, especially those who fall pregnant in their first year of service by not paying them money when they are on maternity leave and freedom of choice as when to procreate.

"By this new Bill, Government seeks to make the law more gender sensitive and not prejudice women," Cde Mangwana said.

Cde Mangwana said in order to curb situations where employers fire workers easily, the new law will design particular codes of conduct to be used in all companies across the country.

"Employees are thus being prejudiced because, in essence, an employee is not interested in monetary gains only, but in providing service, labour and being occupied and earning a living.

"In deciding which option to make, onus should be on the employer to prove that the employment relationship is no longer tenable. Currently, a mere allegation that the relationship is no longer conducive suffices," he said.

The proposed position entails assessment of the nature of the relationship, the size of the employer, whether the employee prefers damages to reinstatement, the situation in the labour market like whether the fired employee would easily find another job and any other factors the court may consider.

In the Bill, an employer who fires his or her employee(s) when he or she is at fault, would have to pay more damages to the fired employee(s).

Cde Mangwana also said the Labour Relations Amendment Bill intends to make the amended Labour Relations Act absolutely superior by simply stating that the Act be supreme to all labour relations.

"In other words, no Act should give room to the exception of the operation of the Labour Act.

"Otherwise this gives room to a medley of labour law regimes making it impossible for the common man, let alone practitioner, to know which labour law regime governs a particular industry. Any party, which is not happy about a decision, can appeal to the Supreme Court under the proposed amended Labour Act," he said.

Under the proposed Labour Relations Amendment Bill, all employment organisations would be governed by the Labour Act except civil servants who are governed by the Public Service Commission.

"Even local authorities, whose conditions were governed by the Urban Council’s Act, would now be governed by the Labour Act," Cde Mangwana said.

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