Employers raise alarm over new employment Bill

Labour export, according to government data, has been growing since 2010. PHOTO/FILE

The Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE), a body that brings together all employers in the country, has raised alarm over the Employment Amendment Bill, 2022, that was passed by Parliament on Wednesday.

Although the Bill that awaits the president’s signature to become law addresses most pertinent issues which they have been advocating for, like eliminating sexual harassment, decasualisation of labour, externalisation of labour, the establishment of breastfeeding facilities for lactating mothers, and ring-fencing of some jobs for Ugandans, employers say making some issues mandatory will affect the sector instead of solving the problem.

In an exclusive interview with Monitor, Mr Dan Okanya, the head of policy and research at FUE, said some issues such as breastfeeding facilities are good but should not be made mandatory.

“In Uganda, the majority of the working population are employed by Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), they also employ a small number of staff yet establishing these facilities will require a lot of investments making it costly to do business. Some employers will shun employing women because they cannot afford these shelters. What we need is encouraging employers to do it as a best practice, but making it mandatory will lead to catastrophic impact,” he said.

On labour externalisation, Mr Okanya said Uganda needs an independent law.
“When you look at the current trend of how Ugandans are being externalised, issues that need to be addressed are critical and thus require an independent law to ensure safe and orderly Labour externalisation,” he said.

Mr Okanya also raised alarm on the proposal to ring-fence certain jobs to only Ugandans. He said this will undermine the principle of the East African Community to which Uganda is a founding member and international relation.

“The East African Common Market Protocol, provides for four freedoms (free movement of labour, free movement of capital, free movement of goods and services, and free movement of persons) and two rights (right of establishment and right of residence). 

“In this regard, partner states including Uganda are required to put in place laws and policies which facilitate the implementation of this protocol. Ring-fencing some jobs for only Ugandans contradicts the spirit of the EAC integration and nullifies the provisions of the protocols to which Uganda is a signatory. Let it be open and whoever qualifies should compete so that the employer chooses the best candidate. Now what will happen if other countries introduce the same,” he said, adding: “What we need is to make the competition open so that those who don’t have experience work under those with much expertise.”

On a positive note, however, Mr Okanya welcomed some provisions in the amendment such as the decasualisation of labour, which he said will reduce the rising rates of the informal sector in the country.