Overview of rights and responsibilities of employers and employees in a contract of employment

Introduction

Out of the total labour force or population in Ghana about 6.7 percent are unemployed. This was revealed in a 2018 survey conducted by Statista[i]. This undoubtedly implies that about 93.3 percent of the labour population are employed either in the formal or informal sectors. Out of the 93.3 percent who are employed about 52. 48 percent are employed in the informal sector comprising mainly agriculture and industry while the formal sector which comprises mainly of services accounts for the remaining 47.52 percent of the total Ghanaians employed.

The statistics above indicates that about 93.3 percent are in an employment relationship and as such it is expedient that these employees know or are aware of their rights and responsibilities as conferred by statute. In this article an overview of these rights and responsibilities of the parties to an employment contract would be discussed.

What are the rights and duties of employers and employees in Ghana?

The rights and duties of employers as well as employees have been stipulated in the Labour Act[ii]. Section 8 of the Act provides that:

“Subject to this Act and any other enactment the rights of an employer include the right to

  1. Employ a worker discipline transfer promote and terminate the employment of the worker
  2. Formulate policies execute plans and programmers to set targets
  3. Modify extend or cease operations and
  4. Determine the type of products to make or sell and the prices of its goods and services

These rights summed up, would mean that an employer has a right to decide whether or not to employ a particular person. This implies that there is no obligation on that employer to employ anybody unless he or she decides to exercise that right. Once employed that employer reserves the right to promote or terminate the contract of employment of any worker without recourse to any other person as well as to determine what type of disciplinary measures to exert on his workers as far as it does not breach any fundamental human rights of any person.

Whatever operations are carried out in the outfit of the employ remains in the purview of that employer may decide to modify or cease to be in operations provided it is within the ambits of the law.

Just as an employer has rights so does, he or she have certain responsibilities imposed on him or her. Section 9 of Act 651[iii] imposes on the employer such duties as to provide work and appropriate raw materials machinery equipment and tools pay the agreed remuneration at the agreed time without any deduction except those permitted by law or agreed between the parties ensure that the worker is free from risk of personal injury or damage to his or her health during and in the course of the worker’s employment. Other duties that are required of the employer are for the employer to develop the human resources by way of training and retraining of the workers, providing and ensuring the operation of an adequate procedure for discipline of the workers, furnish the worker with a copy of the worker’s contract of employment keeping open the channels of communication with workers and protecting the interest of the workers.

These are basic duties that an employer is supposed to carry out without prejudice to any other enactment or collective agreement.

Similarly, Sections 10 and 11 of Act 651 spell out the rights and responsibilities of a worker towards an employer. By section 10, a worker has a right to work under suitable, safe and healthy conditions, receive equal pay for equal work without distinction of any kind, have rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and period of holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays, form or join a trade union, be trained and retrained for the development of his or her skills and receive information relevant to his or her work.

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The worker, by section 11, is obliged to work meticulously in the lawfully chosen occupation, report for work regularly and punctually, enhance productivity, exercise due care in the execution of assigned work, obey lawful instructions, reading the organization and execution of his or her work, take all reasonable care for the safety and health of fellow workers, protect the interests of the employer and take proper care of the property of the employer entrusted to the worker or under the immediate control of the worker.

Apart from these rights and duties of workers and employers listed above, there are certain issues that ought to be catered for by both the employer and the worker in ensuring that the employment relationship is a healthy one. These issues may include but not limited to annual leave, hours of work and overtime payment, holidays and vacations, remuneration as well as issues regarding discrimination.

The Labour Act[iv] stipulates that an employee in any undertaking, except a person employed in an undertaking in which only members of the family of the employer are employed, is entitled to working leave of not less than fifteen (15) working days, with full pay in any calendar year of continuous service. It must be noted that annual leave is not to be fettered by public holidays as well as weekends or absence of duty due to confinement.

According to Odartey Lamptey in his book “Labour Law”, annual leave is beneficial both to the employer and to the employee. According to him the employee is able to rest and this in effect enhances or helps to maintain the health of the worker. Similarly, it is beneficial to the worker because according to the author, studies show that it is during this period that most corruptive practices are uncovered.

Under very normal circumstances, an employer is not supposed to interrupt with the annual leave of a worker except in very urgent situations. In such instances, the worker shall still be entitled to the remainder of the leave and would be capable of takin the leave anytime thereafter. In addition, the employer would also be obliged to settle the worker for any losses (reasonable) on account of the interruption. No agreement can be made to limit an employee’s entitlement to annual leave as is espoused in the labour law. Any such agreement would be deemed void and will not be given effect to.

Another issue that ought not to be compromised, is the issue of hours of work and overtime payment. The working hours and period of work by the worker are supposed to be agreed on by the parties and same scripted in the contract of employment. What would be agreed on need not fall outside the remits of the law. Section 33 of the Labour Law[v] states that the hours of a worker shall be a maximum of eight hours a day or forty hours a week except in cases expressly provided for in the Act. The law also provides for situations in which the number of hours may be shortened or lengthened. In all these there must be consensus between the parties to the contract of employment.

One of the most “prized-possessions” of an employee is his or her remuneration. As a result, most would pull out all the stops to protect it. The law also creates certain avenues such as proscribing certain deductions as a way of protecting the remuneration of employees. It is expedient therefore, to prescribe the remuneration payable in the contract of employment so that it can be easily enforceable.

The law enjoins an employer not to do anything that may result in the discrimination of an employee in terms of remuneration, the type of work done, etc. this is also premised on fundamental human right of a person not to be discriminated against on rounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.[vi]

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The Black’s Law Dictionary[vii] defines discrimination as the differential treatment, especially a failure to treat all persons equally when no reasonable distinction can be found between those favoured and those not favoured.

The law has made serious strides in an attempt to forestall or curb discrimination in employment relationships. Section 14 of the Labour Act[viii] for instance provides that:

An employer shall not in respect of any person seeking employment, or of persons already in his employment discriminate against the person on rounds of ender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed, social or economic status, disability or politics.”

It would be observed that this provision mirrors the tenets of the Constitution as set out in Article 17. This issue was discussed extensively in the case of Ghana Commercial Bank Limited v. The Commissioner Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).[ix] In this case an employee’s appointment was terminated for granting a loan in excess of the ceiling provided by the appellant bank for its managers. From the record, the appellant had not denied the fact that heavier amounts far in excess of the ceiling were granted by other managers, but the appointment of those other managers had not been terminated. The Court opined that the action of the appellant bank was discriminatory.

This issue of discrimination reared its head again in the very recent case of The Commissioner, CHRAJ & 2 Others v. Ghana National Fire Service & Attorney-General[x] in which case the court made a declaration that Regulation 33(6) of the Conditions of Services of Ghana National Service, which required employees of the GNFS who were women to avoid being pregnant until three years after their employment to avoid dismissal, is discriminatory and in effect unjustifiable, illegitimate and illegal. The court consequently ordered the reinstatement of two employees who had been dismissed as a result of becoming pregnant within the first three years of their employment, payment of all arrears of their salaries and emoluments that had accrued to them during the period of dismissal as well as compensation for the trauma and inconvenience of the wrongful dismissal.

These decisions show the extent to which the court reveres the sanctity of the fundamental human rights of persons.

Conclusion

It is very expedient to spell out the rights and duties of the employer as well as the employee to guide them in their employment relationship in order to prevent the arousal of disputes between the parties.

Points to note

  • The Labour Act of Ghana, 2003 (Act 651) outlines the various rights and duties of employers and employees alike
  • An employee cannot be stripped off his or her annual leave
  • An employer does not have the right to interrupt the annual leave of an employee, unless it is very urgent, in which case the employee would be entitled to the rest of the leave anytime thereafter
  • The law places fetters on the employer’s power in respect of the remuneration of the employee; an employer is forbidden from making certain deductions from the salary or wages of an employee
  • According to the labour law, an employee is supposed to work for eight hours a day unless otherwise agreed by the parties
  • Where the work is such as requires an employee to work overtime, it would be imperative for the rate for the payment of overtime to be fixed
  • Discrimination against an employee is totally abhorred by the law

[i] Unemployment Rate in Ghana 2018; Published by H. Plecher,

[ii] 2003 (Act 651)

[iii] Labour Act, 2003(Act 651)

[iv] Section 32

[v] 2003 (Act 651)

[vi] Article 17

[vii] 9th edition (page 535)

[viii] ibid

[ix] Civil Appeal No. 11/2002, 29th January, 2003 (unreported)

[x] Suit No. HR 0063/2017 delivered on 23 April, 2018 (unreported)

The writer is a Lawyer. Email: ayabzattorney@gmail.com

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