On Friday the 19th of November 2021, Government of Zimbabwe gazetted the Labour Amendment Bill. As set out in its memorandum, the Bill aims to amend the Labour Act [Chapter 28:01]. The amendments are being made to align the Labour Act with Section 65 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which sets out labour rights with emphasis on the right to fair and safe labour practices, the right to just, equitable and satisfactory conditions of work. The Bill also seeks to align the Labour Act with other international frameworks ratified by Zimbabwe such as International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions on the rights to safe labour practices and standards. The Bill also takes care of emerging issues in the world of work such as gender-based violence and harassment at the work place with a view to closing the gaps in the existing legislation. The Bill contains progressive provisions with regards to the advancement of gender equality and non-discrimination in the workplace.
Key provisions of the Bill on equality, non-discrimination and prohibition of violence and harassment in the workplace
- Clause 2 of the Bill
The clause amends the existing section 2 of the Labour Act by including the definitions of “gender-based violence and harassment” and “violence and harassment”. In terms of the Bill, “gender-based violence and harassment” means violence and harassment directed at persons because of their sex or gender, or affecting persons of a particular sex or gender disproportionately. The Bill also defines “violence and harassment” to refer to a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices, or threats thereof, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment. The addition of these definitions expands the protection given to employees especially women employees and will be key in addressing the rampant scourge of violence and harassment of female employees.
- Clause 4 of the Bill
This clause places an obligation on employers to pay male and female employees equally for work of the same value in line with section 65 (6) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The clause provides that “every employer shall pay equal remuneration to male and female employees for work to which equal value is attributed without discrimination on the grounds of sex or gender.” The new provision broadens the scope of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value to tackle occupational gender segregation in the labour market.
iii. Clause 5 of the Bill
The clause amends Section 6 of the Labour Act to prohibit violence and harassment at the workplace, including violence and harassment of a sexual based nature or gender-based nature. the clause provides that “no person shall directly or indirectly act in a manner that amounts to violence and harassment towards another person at the workplace”. The clause also provides penalties for perpetrators of violence in the workplace.
- Clause 6 of the Bill
This clause amends Section 8 of the Labour Act by including as unfair labour practice the actions by employers who engages in actions that amount to violence and harassment. The clause contains penalties for such practices.
- Clause 11 of the Bill
This clause amends Section 18 to align the Labour Act to section 65(7) of the Constitution to ensure that women employees have the right to fully paid maternity leave for a period of 3 months by removing qualifying periods, prescribed intervals for maternity and a maximum number of times for enjoying the right to maternity leave under one employer.
Following its gazetting, the Labour Amendment Bill, has been referred to a Portfolio Committee of Parliament which looks into the functions of the Ministry responsible for administering the Bill. The Portfolio Committee will then conduct public hearings with members of the public especially interest groups, to enable them to make input in terms of Section 141 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
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