The Future of Work Capsules: …Investing in people’s capabilities, institutions of work and in decent and sustainable work

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 The ILO called on governments to commit to a set of measures to address the challenges caused by unprecedented transformational change in the world of work

In researching about how work will be for us all in the future, I am gathering people’s views and ideas about work for the African continent to enable us foster solution-oriented conversations across sectors and regions, which will enable us build a better world of work for all based on empirical research. You too can join that conversation with the hashtag #thefutureofworkcapsules #fowc.

A Universal Labour Guarantee, social protection from birth to old age, and an entitlement to lifelong learning are among ten recommendations made in a landmark report by the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work. The ILO in the report has called on governments to commit to a set of measures in order to address the challenges caused by unprecedented transformational change in the world of work.  Co-chaired by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, the Commission outlines a vision for a human-centred agenda that is based on investing in people’s capabilities, institutions of work, and in decent and sustainable work.

Among the ten recommendations continuing from the previous articles are:

  • A universal labour guarantee that protects fundamental workers’ rights, an adequate living wage; puts limits on hours of work and ensure safe and healthy workplaces.
  • Guaranteed social protection from birth to old age that supports people’s needs over the life cycle.
  • A universal entitlement to lifelong learning that enables people to skill, reskill and upskill.
  • Managing technological change to boost decent work, including an international governance system for digital labour platforms.
  • Greater investments in the care, green and rural economies.
  • A transformative and measurable agenda for gender equality.
  • Reshaping business incentives to encourage long-term investments.

The first point on a universal labour guarantee that protects fundamental workers’ rights – an adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces – was discussed in our previous articles. It also calls to mind the need to drive advocacy together, toward having safe and healthy workplaces. I was at one of Ghana’s local shopping malls within the Greater Accra Region of Ghana before announcement of the coronavirus hit the world, causing the world to observe what I termed ‘Silence Hour’.

To my surprise, the employees of the mall had no eating place. Per our labour laws, employees are expected to – depending on your contract type, be entitled to a 30-minute to one-hour break period while at work. Perhaps this provision should propel our policymakers for industries to support the provision of decent eating spaces for employees while at work. Until recently, most homes even within the Greater Accra Region had no places of convenience. Thanks to CSO and media advocacy on the subject, government through the District Assembly concept supported the construction of places of convenience for most homes.

It appears we are still struggling even with the present, let alone thinking about the future of work. The fact remains that not all jobs will be replaced by automation and robotics, though a significant amount will be lost to automation. This COVID-19 pandemic is causing all the world to adjust at an alarming rates and proportions which hitherto would not even be considered or accepted. In Ghana, the concept of working from home has all of a sudden attracted gigantic support even from government, businesses and organisations. We need to be mindful of roles, rights & responsibilities of parties to a contract as we explore opportunities which the future of work could present for us.

The worker has rights and responsibilities. As a worker, it is your responsibility to follow all lawful employer-safety and health rules and regulations, and wear or use required protective equipment while working – including the use of facemasks, which is the new normal due to COVID-19. The worker/employee has to report all hazardous conditions to the employer. Report any job-related injury or illness to the employer and seek treatment promptly. Let us discuss roles, rights & responsibilities.

When it comes to health and safety, everyone in the workplace has diverse responsibilities. Whether you’re an owner, employer, supervisor, prime contractor or a worker, you have a role to play in keeping the workplace safe. As a worker, you have rights to a safe and healthy workplace, which includes the right to refuse unsafe work.

Responsibilities for workplace health and safety

Everyone has a role to play in workplace safety. As an owner, you are ultimately responsible for health and safety. In many cases, the owner is also in the role of employer. If you’re both owner of the workplace and employer, you must meet your responsibilities for both roles.

Your responsibilities as an owner are: to maintain the premises in a way that ensures the health and safety of people working either in offices or on-site; disclose to employers or prime contractors the full details of any potential hazards in or around the workplace so they can be eliminated or controlled; and comply with occupational health and safety requirements and orders.

Whether a business is large or small, the law requires that it be a safe and healthy place to work. If you are an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure a healthy and safe workplace. Your responsibilities as an employer include establishing a valid occupational health and safety programme. Train your employees to do their work safely and provide proper supervision. Provide supervisors with the necessary support and training to carry out health and safety responsibilities. Ensure adequate first-aid equipment, supplies, and trained attendants on site to handle injuries. Regularly inspect your workplace to make sure everything is working properly. Fix problems reported by workers. This helps to keep a functional workplace. It’s interesting how most offices neglect simple issues, like fixing a faulty switch and leaving it unattended to for ages until harm is caused.

It appears it’s typical of us as Ghanaians to not maintain a decent functional office – and by extension, home or church – by observation. I wish to use this opportunity to encourage all to try and learn how to maintain a functional home, office and/or place of worship. When we detect a faulty cable or switch, let’s endeavour to fix it quickly and not wait for injuries and/or accidents to occur before we act. The same applies to our government – we appeal for a functional economy! Furthermore, the employer’s responsibility includes transporting injured workers to the nearest location for medical treatment should accidents occur while at work.

This demands operation of the law on workman compensation insurance. In mounting my compliance advocacy, I implore all businesses not to wait before acquiring these workman compensation documents – not just for project bidding purposes only, to but implement the workman compensation policy in its entirety.

Workers‘ compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence.

The definition of a worker has been expanded to include any person who receives salary or wages except an outworker, a tributary, and a family member of the employer living with the latter, or where the Law prohibits definition as a worker. The Workmen’s Compensation Act 1987 makes it compulsory for any employers of labour to set aside funds to compensate any worker who may sustain injury at the workplace, whether the employer is to be blamed or not.

Report all injuries that require medical attention. Investigate incidents wherein workers are injured or equipment is damaged.

According to Worksafebc, Supervisors play a key role with very specific health and safety responsibilities which need to be understood.  A supervisor is a person who instructs, directs, and controls workers in the performance of their duties. A supervisor can be any worker — management or staff — who meets this definition, whether or not he or she has the supervisor title. If someone in the workplace has a supervisor’s responsibilities, that person is responsible for the worker’s health and safety.

Your responsibilities as a supervisor will be: to ensure the health and safety of all workers under your direct supervision. Know the Work and safety requirements that apply to the work under your supervision and make sure those requirements are met. Ensure workers under your supervision are aware of all known hazards. Ensure workers under your supervision have the appropriate equipment to work with, especially those prescribed by health professionals in this unusual time of COVID-19, which are to be used properly – especially the facemask, regularly inspected, and maintained. As most countries in the world still observe a lockdown, leaving persons providing essential services to report to work, I encourage that all safety protocols be provided and adhered to.

On a worksite, everyone has varying levels of responsibility for workplace health and safety. You should know and understand your responsibilities, and those of others. If you’re an employee, you also have key rights. The right to know about hazards in the workplace, the right to participate in health and safety activities in the workplace, and the right to refuse unsafe work. By law, employers are prohibited from penalising employees for raising health and safety issues. But if these occur, there are actionable solutions employees can employ.

Your responsibilities as an employee include the fact that you, the employee, play an important role in making sure you — and your fellow colleagues — stay healthy and safe on the job. As an employee, you must: be alert to hazards, report them immediately to your supervisor or employer; follow safe work procedures and act safely in the workplace at all times; use the protective clothing, devices and equipment provided, be sure to wear them properly; cooperate with joint occupational health and safety committees if available, worker health and safety representatives, prevention officers, and anybody with health and safety duties; get treatment quickly should an injury happen on the job and tell the health care provider that the injury is work-related;

Follow the treatment advice of health care providers; Return to work safely after an injury by modifying your duties and not immediately starting with your full, regular responsibilities – if in agreement with your supervisor, in an initial engagement. Never work under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any other substance, or if you’re overly tired. Alcohol-testing policies become very useful tools HR and management can employ. Note also that under the act, Workmen’s Compensation Act 1987 “the employer is not liable to pay compensation in respect of an injury to an employee resulting from an accident which is attributable to the employee having been under the influence of drink or drugs at the time of the accident”, so beware.

In a workplace where there are two or more employers working at the same time, a written agreement should identify a prime contractor. If there is no written agreement, the owner is considered to be the prime contractor. While prime contractors have overall responsibility for health and safety on a worksite, employers still retain responsibility for the health and safety of their own workers.

Your responsibilities as a prime contractor include to: coordinate the occupational health and safety activities of all employers, workers, and anyone else at the workplace; establish and maintain procedures to ensure occupational health and safety requirements at the workplace are followed by all parties. If you witness or experience unsafe or unhealthy conditions at the workplace, report it to someone at work or your supervisor, raising a health or safety issue. If you do so, you are legally exercising a right or carrying out a duty under the Workers Compensation Act.  This Act applies to employees employed by the Republic as well as private persons, except in the case of persons in the Armed Forces. It is illegal for an employer or union to penalise you for raising a health or safety issue at work, and you can submit a discriminatory action complaint if you feel this has occurred.

If you raise a health or safety issue at work and the response is any one of the following, we consider it discriminatory action: you are suspended or laid-off, or your job is eliminated; you are demoted or an opportunity for promotion is taken away; your duties are transferred to someone else; you’re sent to another work-site as a result of the issue; your wages are reduced or your working hours are changed; you are coerced or intimidated in some way.

If you are disciplined, reprimanded or penalised in any way, report to the Labour Commission, or alternativelyProHumane Afrique International – a non-governmental organisation which envisions a society wherein members can seek their future and success in four places: through God, their mind, their tongue and finally, through handwork – is ever-present to support your compliance advocacy needs as an employee, employer or union.

You can write to us [email protected] or follow our social media pages for support.  You can also submit a complaint if you are not paid for the following: the time off work spent by an employee in agreement with the employer and/or supervisor for health and safety matters. Refusal of management to pay you as a result of an educational leave taken for health and safety training attended approved and agreed by management prior to the commencement of that training. Were you are granted leave during this COVID-19 period and just laid-off without notice? Talk to us today for support in navigating through the deep waters in these ungodly times we find ourselves. Remember, all parties are suffocating globally as a result of the pandemic; let’s keep employees updated properly as employers and employees must seek duly approved leaves of absence from employers and supervisors in order to avert possible lay-off.

 

Baptista is the CEO of FoReal HR Services and manages its social enterprise ProHumane Afrique International. She is a human resource professional with a broad generalist background and a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). Building a team of efficient & effective workforce is her business. Affecting lives is her calling! You can reach her via e-mail on [email protected]  or follow on our social media pages Linked-In / Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram: FoReal HR Services. Please Call or WhatsApp for all your Recruitment, Training and Development as well as for your Relocation Support Services needs: +233(0)262213313. Follow the conversation with the hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules #FoWC

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