The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Parliament Passes Labour Bill

Kigali — The Chamber of Deputies has passed the long awaited labour bill that sets new standards of working relations between employers and their employees.

The bill was passed after several weeks of prolonged debates on some terms and articles. Some of the contentious issues in the bill include the increase in working hours.

A press statement issued immediately after Members of Parliament passed the bill indicates that working hours have been increased from 40 to 45 per week in all government departments.

Despite the increase in weekly working hours, the new bill leaves space for negotiation on the hours an employee can work.

"The negotiations between the two parties (employer and employee) would depend on the amount of work someone has to do," reads the statement.

The bill also stipulates that the minimum wage will be determined by a ministerial decree that sets the rates of wages and salaries after a mutual agreement between concerned parties.

It also gives much consideration for maternity leave to mothers with a clear specification of how they earn their incomes while they are having their maternity leave.

"Every woman earning a salary, when she gives birth, is entitled to 12 consecutive weeks of maternity leave; she can start the leave two weeks before giving birth," the bill states in part.

It also adds that a woman who has no maternity insurance is entitled to her full salary for a period of the six first weeks of the leave; in the following six weeks she can return to work and continue earning her full salary or continue with the leave and earn 20 percent of her salary.

"But every woman who returns to work immediately after the first six weeks of her leave is entitled to two hour off-duty to breast feed for a period of six months after giving birth," states the bill.

On the issue of child labour, the law sets tough measures against anyone involved in any kind of child labour.

"Every person who is suspected and proved guilty of involving children into child labour would face a sentence ranging between three and five months with a fine ranging between Rwf 500,000 and Rwf 2 million," states the bill.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary statement quotes the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Social Welfare, Spéciose Mukandutiye, saying that the bill was drafted on the basis of several lawmakers' views. It comes as a modification of the previous law adopted in 2001.

In his earlier explanations to the Parliament, the Minister of Public Service and Labour, Anastase Murekezi said that the bill was prepared in the framework of harmonising it with provisions of the constitution, and that it will play a significant role in solving problems encountered by both the employees and employers.

Furthermore, this Bill aims at facilitating investment in Rwanda and enhancing job creation in consideration of the modern economic times, especially in issues related to; easing employment contracts, reducing investment costs, establishing a limited number of days of annual leave, permitting an employee to enter into contracts with different employers and easing issues relating to laying off employees in case of economic difficulties among others.

This Bill also aims at respecting the provisions of various international conventions of which Rwanda ratified, correct articles that were unclear, including: title of an employee in different categories, differentiating the amount of notice and the benefits package, describing and prohibiting hard labour for children in order to eradicate them.

Murekezi had earlier defended the bill explaining that this it aims at filling gaps in the existing law in order to promote labour; for instance, issues related to modification of contract, employment of disabled persons, consultative organs, changing an employer for the employee, vocational training, health and security on duty, social security and widening issues relating to social security and others.

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