Kenya: Nairobi Hospital Loses Bid to Increase Staff Working Hours

The Labour court has ruled against the Nairobi Hospital in a legal battle over the revision of its employees' working hours from 40 to 45 per week.

The court said Friday that the move by the hospital which was done without consultation of employees is "unattractive".

"There must have been a public policy consideration behind the statutory requirement to consult with the employee before revising the prescribed employment particulars," Justice Stephen Radido said in his ruling.

He added that promotion of social justice in the workplace is recognised by the International Labour Organisation and that social justice in the workplace cannot be realised without dialogue between the tripartite partners.

The ruling comes after the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) moved to court to stop the revision of working hours of the hosptial's health workers from 40 a week to 45 per week.

In a signed affidavit, the Nairobi KMPDU branch secretary Thuranira Kaugiria said the facility is adamant that those who fail to comply with the new policy have been told that they may face adverse action including citation, disciplinary action, victimisation and or termination.

Nairobi Hospital had sent a memo to its staff informing them that due to the nature of the hospital's operations as a 24-hour essential services provider all employees are required to work 45 hours a week, or 180 hours per month and be flexible depending on the required work arrangement and business exigencies.

"In this regard and for the mutual benefit of our patients, the Hospital, staff, and all stakeholders, all employees who signed a contract of employment to work 40 hours' week will be required to sign an addendum to the employment contract to this effect," the hospital told the staff.

Speaking to the Nation Dr Kaugiria said that employers must regularly consult with their employees before rushing into making decisions that directly affect them.

"Justice Radido has set precedence in employer employee relationship. We are looking forward to further engagements with the Nairobi Hospital. This should be a warning to The Mater Hospital that has unilaterally amended doctor's contracts before engaging them. We(KMPDU) will do anything possible to improve the welfare of our members," he said.

This ruling is likely to set standard for the already ailing private hospitals in the country which have pushed into near financial ruin forcing many to ask medics to take a pay cut or extend their hours without extra pay.

The growing costs and shrinking revenues are now forcing hospitals to ask their employees to take a pay cut even as the coronavirus cases continue to surge.

The Aga Khan University Hospital, MP Shah Hospital have already communicated with their staff their intention to cut their salaries.

Mater Hospital also recently announced pay cuts from June to September.

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