By Staff Reporter
EMPLOYERS will no longer be able to terminate contracts of their permanent staff on three months notice after the National Assembly removed a clause in the Labour Act that conferred them powers to fire employees by simply giving them three months’ written notice.
The Supreme Court made a judgment commonly known as the Zuva judgment in 2015 which opened floodgates of termination of employment as employers tried to avoid going through the financial burden that goes with retrenchment, what had been assumed to be the only way of getting rid of staff who had not committed disciplinary offences.
The Supreme Court ruled that companies could lawfully terminate staff contracts at any time without offering them packages, provided they are given at least three months’ notice after Zuva Petroleum was allowed to fire its two managers on notice. There were some modifications later but not the whole process of termination of employment on notice is being dropped.
During debate on the Labour Amendment Bill this week, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi acceded to issues raised by legislators that Clause 8 which sought to amend Section 12 of the Labour Act be amended by removing the requirement of notice.
Minister Ziyambi proposed amendments to remove the word “notice” wherever it appeared in that Clause.
In his submission, Harare East legislator Mr Tendai Biti said the import of the Zuva Petroleum judgment was to create an untenable situation on the labour law in the country.
“When that happened, labour law died because what is the point of having a disciplinary hearing when you can simply give three months’ notice? We need to go back to the status quo. We need to go back to the old position where you cannot terminate on notice. In other words, we need to remove no-fault termination and go back to fault termination to protect workers. You are allowed to employ seasonal workers, but a normal industrial worker should only be terminated on fault. That means that the only no-fault situation is retrenchment,” said Mr Biti.
Minister Ziyambi however, rejected proposed amendments from opposition CCC legislators for paternity leave.
Mr Tendai Biti
He however, acceded to have a Clause allowing for the use of “labour brokerage arrangement” removed after legislators argued that it amounted to “modern day slavery”.
It was felt that “labour brokerage arrangement” worked on the basis that a middle-man will employ his own employees and then sub-employ those people to a third party like company or bank, as in the case with cleaning services where they are not directly employed by the company they are offering service.
The Labour Amendment Bill sailed through in the National Assembly and now awaits transmission to Senate.
Other Bills that sailed through National Assembly late on Thursday include the Electricity Amendment Bill and Children’s Amendment Bill.
The Electricity Amendment Bill seek to further deter those people that vandalise electricity infrastructure by imposing mandatory deterrent sentences while the Children’s Amendment Bill seeks to align the Children’s Act to the Constitution and international conventions.
The Bill essentially aims to strengthen the country’s child protection framework, in particular to afford all children needful protection and assistance to enable them to fully assume their responsibilities in the community.
Meanwhile, debate on the Electoral Amendment Bill continued on Thursday evening in the National Assembly with legislators agreeing that there was duplication of duties between the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Registrar General on voter registration and issue of documents.
It was felt that there was need for the RG’s office to do voter registration given that it was the one seized with issuing national identity documents.
However, changes could not be made immediately since that would require an amendment to the Constitution.
“Even the delimitation process, we do not need a hangover for the commission to be involved in delimitation; they have fights with everyone else and that is carried over to an election.
“The way it was, we had a Delimitation Commission which was divorced from the electoral body and that makes the situation even tidier. I submit that we do not need this for now and I am moving that we remove it and keep it in our minds for when we have the next Session of Parliament,” said Minister Ziyambi. – ZimPapers