People and Organizations: statutory rights and duties of an employee; part two

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  People and Organizations: statutory rights and duties of an employee [II]
Daniel Amateye ANIM

The statutory rights and obligations imposed on an employee emanates from the nature of the employment relationship. This employment relationship is largely regulated by labour law. The Labour law basically can be described as the area of law that regulates the relationship between employers and employees.

That is, it’s a body of law that primarily concerns the rights and responsibilities of unionized employees. On the other hand, labour law could be described as the body of law that governs the employer-employee relationship, including individual employment contracts and contract doctrines, and largely of statutory regulation on issues such as the right to organize and negotiate collective bargaining agreements, protection from discrimination and health and safety.

In Ghana, however, the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) is the parent act which regulates the relationship between the employer and employees. The act further defines the statutory rights and obligations of an employee. Farnham (2000) stated that employee relations deal with the interactions amongst the parties to the employment relationship. At this point, it’s important to define the term “employee”.

It will give us a better appreciation with respect to its statutory rights and obligations. Basically, an employee is someone working for an employer who has the ultimate right to tell the worker what to do. In the UK, the Employment Rights Act (1996) defines an “employee” as a person who works under a contract of employment, the tacit assumptions being that the “employer” is the other party to the contract of employment.

In Ghana, however, the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651); more importantly, Section 175 of Act 651 defines a worker (employee) as a person employed under a contract of employment whether on a continuous, part-time, temporary or causal basis. It is important to state that, the true nature of every contract is to confer rights and obligations on the parties.

It is refreshing to note that, this philosophical legal principle is applicable to employment contract. It is worth noting that the parties may agree on certain rights and obligations deemed as necessary to regulate their conduct within the realm of employment relationship.

In Ghana, the key legislation on employment relations is the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651). The Act has stated a number a number of statutory rights and obligations on the parties to the employment contract. These statutory rights and obligations bind the parties to the employment contract. Section 10 of Act 651 spelt out the employees’ rights to include the right to:

  1. work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions;
  2. receive equal pay for equal without distinction of any kind;
  3. have rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and period of holidays with pay as well as remuneration for public holidays;
  4. form or join a trade union;
  5. be trained and retrained for the development of his or her skills; and
  6. receive information relevant to his or her work.

Employees Rights

Section 10 (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) of Act 651 talks about the rights of employees but for the purposes of this article, it shall be discussed under the following headings:

  • Right to Safety & healthy conditions

Section 10 (a) of Act 651 talks about the fact that, the employee is entitled to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions. It is expedient to note that, the right of an employee to work under satisfactory, safe and health conditions have been provided by the 1992 Constitution.

In fact, Article 24 (1) of the 1992 Constitution reads “Every person has the right to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions, and shall receive equal pay for equal work without distinction of any kind” It is refreshing to state that the Factories, Offices and Shops Act, 1970 (Act 328), as amended, is of Ghana’s principal legislation on safety of employees as well as the overall safety of the working environment.

By virtue of the above provisions, it is evidently clear that the law imposes a statutory duty on the employer to provide a safe and healthy working environment. Failure to do so, any injury that may emerge as a result, the employer shall be held liable

A classic example is the case of Narh v. Volta Aluminum Co Ltd, the plaintiff, an employee defendant company, was requested by a supervisor to help other employee to remove heavy metal beam from wall. In the process of lowering the beam, it crashed on the plaintiff and injured. The court held the defendant liable for breaching statutory duty imposed on it by law.

  • Right to Equal Pay for Equal Work

Section 10 (b) of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) provides that the employee has the right to receive equal pay for equal work without distinction of any kind. This implies that the employee has the right to receive equal remuneration, for equal work without discrimination of any kind.

The 1992 Constitution made provision for the employee with respect to right to equal pay for equal work. Article 24 (1) of the 1992 Constitution provides that a worker shall receive equal pay for equal work without distinction of any kind. In view of the above provisions, it is evidently clear that the employer is bound to pay a remuneration agreed upon by both parties.

  • Right to Rest & Reasonable Holidays

Pursuant to Section 10 (c) of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651), an employer has the right to rest. It further provides that, the employee has the right to “have rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and period of holidays with pay as well as remuneration for public holidays”. Indeed, the working hours agreed on by the employer and the employee must be within what is permissible by law.

In Ghana, statutorily, the hours of work of a worker are a maximum of eight (8) hours a day or forty hours a week.  The employee is entitled to at least thirty (30) minutes break in the course of the work which forms part of the normal hours of work. It is interesting to note that, manual labourers and workers engaged in jobs likely to be injurious to their health may also work for a shorter period of time determined from time to time by the Minister for Employment.

In fact, Section 35 of Act 651 provides that, the worker cannot be compelled to do overtime. Where the very nature of the undertaking or the work done by the undertaking require overtime in order to be viable, or carried on by the undertaking are subject to emergencies that require that workers engage in overtime work in order to prevent or avoid threat to life and property. It is worth noting that, an employee has to be paid a reasonable remuneration or leave to mitigate the associated stress.

  • Right to Unionize

The employee has the right to belong to workers’ union or any labour organization. Article 21(1) (e) of the 1992 Constitution provides that all persons shall have the right to freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form or join trade unions or other associations, national and international, for the protection of their interest. Article 24 (3) of the 1992 Constitution reads “Every worker has a right to form or join a trade union of his choice for the promotion and protection of his economic and social interest” Section 10 (d) of Act 651 provides that the worker has a right to form or join a trade union.

  • Right to Training and Acquisition of required Skills

The ever-changing business environment, most importantly, changes in the technological environment demands that workers sharpen their skills to meet standards. It is important to note that the resources spent by employers in the re-training and subsequent upgrade of their skills will actually enhance productivity at the working place.

When productivity increases, it leads to an increase output and hence high profitability.  Section 10 (e) of Act 651 provides that workers has right to be trained and retrained for the development of his or her skills. This implies that, it is the responsibility of the employer to upgrade the skills of workers in order to boost productivity. The skills of employees can be upgraded either through:

  • In- service training; or
  • External residential training, mostly by consultants and experts.
  • Access to Information

Section 10 (f) of the Labour Act, 2003 (651) provides that the employee has a right to receive information relevant to his or her work. This implies that, the information relevant to his work should be provided by the employer.

The employee should be furnished with risk and hazardous-related information regarding his work and the working environment as a whole. The level of information should reflect on both the quality and quantity of the goods that he is expected to produce. In an event where there is a change in the type of goods to be produced, that information must promptly flow from management to the workers.

Obligations of Employees

Section 11 of the labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) sets out the statutory obligations of employees as:

  1. work conscientiously in the lawfully chosen occupation;
  2. report for work regularly and punctually;
  3. enhance productivity;
  4. exercise due care in the execution of assigned work;
  5. obey lawful instructions regarding the organization and execution of his or her work;
  6. take all reasonable care for the safety and health of fellow workers;
  7. protect the interests of the employer; and
  8. take proper care of the property of the employer entrusted to the worker or under the immediate control of the worker.

For the purposes of this article, the above shall be discussed under the following headings:

  • Working Conscientiously

The worker has the duty to work conscientiously in his lawful chosen profession or vocation (Section 11 (a) of Act 651) He is expected to exercise a high sense of professionalism and diligence, more importantly, with respect to the equipment and tools supplied to him by the employer.

  • Punctuality

The employee is obliged to work on regular basis and must equally be punctual. Pursuant to Section 11 (b) of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651), the employee must ensure he or she will, at all times, ensure that punctuality will be adhered to. It is important to state that punctuality brings about productivity and eventually an increased productivity. Lateness, indeed, is disincentive to productivity and organization’s growth.

  • Productivity

The worker is expected to work assiduously so as to ensure that high productivity is achieved (Section 11 (c) of Act 651). Other things being equal, higher productivity brings about an increased revenue and hence high profitability. With an increased profitability, the employer is better able to increase salaries and other remunerations as and when the demand is placed by the employees.

  • Duty of Care and Safety of fellow workers

The worker is expected to exercise due care and high degree of attention in the execution of work assigned (Section 11 (d) of Act 651).  He must equally, take all reasonable care for the safety and health of fellow workers (Section 11 (f) of Act 651).

  • The Duty of Fidelity and utmost Good Faith

This is a common law duty imposed on the employee towards his employer. This duty requires the employee:

  1. not to work in competition with the employer;
  2. not to disclose confidential information such as trade secrets acquired in the course of employment;
  • to account faithfully to his or her employer for property entrusted to him or her or disclose profits made by using a fiduciary position.        
  • Obeying Lawful Instructions

Section 11 (e) of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) provides that the employee has the duty to obey lawful instructions regarding the organization and the execution of his or her work. In fact, the employee is obliged to take and comply with lawful instructions given him or her by the employer. It is important to state that, if an employee takes an unlawful instruction, and the end product of his handy work becomes harmful to the public, both the employer and the employee will be held jointly and severally liable in damages.

  • Protection of Employers’ Interest

Section 11 (g) of Act 651 provides that the employee protect the interest of the employer. This implies that, the employee is duty bound to take good care of the organization’s property. For instance, a driver is expected to handle the official vehicle well by ensuring that vital parts are replaced and routine maintenance is done to ensure its road worthiness. 

  • Care of the Employers’ Property

Section 11 (h) of Act 651 provides that the employee must take proper care of the property of the employer entrusted to the worker or under the immediate control of the worker. This implies that, the employee is duty-bound to take reasonable care of the employer’ property and any other assets of the employer entrusted into his or her hands.

Conclusion

It is refreshing to state that the rights and obligations imposed on the employees are contained in section 10 and section 11 of the labour Act, 2003 (Act 651). Any employee who comply with the above statutory rights and obligation can be assured of harmony between him and the employer. Indeed, it is in the spirit of harmonious working environment that productivity can strive for the mutual benefits of both the employer and employees.

The writer is a Development Economist and Chartered Business Consultant. Daniel is the Chief Economist at the Policy Initiative for Economic Development. He also the Director of Research and Analysis, B&FT. He can be reached on email: [email protected]

Tel; 0244 476376/ 0201939350

 

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