Karuturi workers block South Moi Road, in Naivasha, Kenya, demanding their wages (Feb 2014)

What You Should Know if You Employ Casual Workers

A manufacturing firm was in the habit of recruiting casual employees because of their often increasing workload. Although it had a number of employees, most of their work needed support from casuals on a daily basis. And so for five years, the company would engage approximately 50 casuals daily. The organization was able to automate its process and so they decided to do away with the casuals because of the new system. The newly-acquired machine was able to manage the counting and packing of their items, and as a result rendering the casual staff redundant.

The casuals reported the matter to the industrial court and the company was sued for approximately Kshs.600, 000 for redundancy compensation. The staff also claimed 21 leave days per year, one rest day per week for the years worked and adjustments of their salaries as per the yearly salary increments gazetted by the government.

I was asked to represent the company at the labour office, and this was my first time to undertake such services. I went to the reception and found approximately 20 men seated, but the labour officer who was mediating over the matter was not in the office and so we had to wait for him. Ten minutes passed and I decided to speak to a staff at the office. I stood up and walked towards the door but about five men rushed to the door to block the entrance and ensure that I do not leave the building. This is when I realised that they were the aggrieved party.

Most organizations assume that if they do not give an employee a contract of employment then they are not bound by the Employment Act. However, the employment contract can either be written or unwritten. During the mediation process at the industrial court, the casuals expressed their frustration with the organisation and only asked to be paid what was due to them as per the Employment Act.

So as to mitigate the exposure the following is suggested:

  1. If some specified work cannot be completed within three months, then the contract should be in writing.
  2. If the casual performs work which cannot reasonably be expected to be completed within three months or more then the contract is automatically converted from casual employment to a term contract. The employee is therefore entitled to terms and conditions indicated in the Employment Act.
  3. Various salary adjustments are made on Labour Day for various industries and occupations. Ensure that you buy the gazette notice or have access to the Kenya Law website [http://kenyalaw.org] to avoid exposure.
  4. If you do not have a human resource staff/practitioner, seek advice from a professional before you terminate the services of an employee.

Back to the court case, since the casual employees were being paid daily it was an uphill task for both parties to prove that they had indeed worked for the organisation for the period they were claiming. The casuals did not pursue the case any further. 

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Susan Awuor

Susan Awuor

Trainer and Recruiter

Tandem Consultants

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Helping hand

Why You Should Embrace Service Culture

Nisana joined a new bank in town. On the first day he reported, one of his colleagues volunteered to take him around the building that houses the bank’s headquarters. Everyone he was introduced to literally stopped what they were doing and warmly welcomed him. This was entirely different from what he was used to in his previous employment. A new entrant would walk in unnoticed just like a leaver would collect their few belongings and see themselves through the exit as usual, although now for the last time. Nisana was in for a shock.

On his first Friday at the bank, everyone walked that day in some strange attire. It must have been a wonderful coincidence, he thought to himself. The dress code had some connotation to legal matters, and everyone seemed to imitate legal jargon. Being a learnt friend, he felt at home, but wondered how everyone all of a sudden turned to be a lawyer. At the end of the day, colleagues from his office floor gathered at a very impressive ceremony, to celebrate a newcomer, Nisana. He had never felt so appreciated and highly feted before. He wondered whether this recognition was only a staff affair, or it extended to customers of the bank. He had a lot to learn.

In many strategy meetings for business, I uphold the discussion on service culture as a priority. A lot of company executives would like the sales culture to be the only centre of attraction and conversation, some dismissing my approach. One client I was assisting in strategy asked me, “Where is the money, in sales or service culture?”

Across the world, we know institutions that embrace and cultivate a salesman culture so competitive that their rivals find it hard to catch up. I have no objection to this high performance, highly rewarding culture, even in production industries. In fact Lincoln Electric, one of the largest American multinationals is built on this platform.

Service culture promotes some behaviour of employees that increase concern for serving customers. A lot of people think this culture is only needed for the service industry. That narrative will never be true in the present competitive business environment, where all products are extremely conventional. The differentiation factor is in the service culture. A company can develop it, it’s never too late.

First, develop a service philosophy. Many business people think customers are becoming difficult, and profile then focuses on the easy targets. Indeed, the difficult ones end up being served by someone else. A service philosophy defines how you could accommodate all types of customers and guides your staff in that direction.

Second, train your staff. It’s not enough to have a service charter. It needs to be removed from the walls and reside in the hearts of your employees. Training helps cultivate this service culture, and implement it.

Third, empower your employees. I particularly fret institutions where decision making is entirely on one individual. Imagine a situation where the CEO has to be consulted to buy toiletries! In the absence of such a person everything stalls. An empowered workforce is an enabled organisation.

Organisation would better focus on resolution of issues rather than problems. This coupled with personalised service helps reduce what is called “stupid rules” that always serve as a barrier to satisfied customers.

So, what is your business known for? Is it excellent service culture, or a lot of sales that lack service quality and customer retention?

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Zak Syengo

 

Zak Syengo is the Senior Manager Marketing & Communications

at Rafiki Microfinance Bank