Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Woman Parliamentary Association – UWOPA have asked President Yoweri Museveni to urgently assent to the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2019 passed recently by the House. Approved on Thursday this week, the bill seeks to regulate the employment of domestic and migrant workers abroad as well as provide for the labour rights of breast-feeding mothers.
The bill requires employers to put in place policies and facilities for breast feeding mothers. The Bill also prohibits employment of persons as casual employees for more than three months under the same employer, and provides for conversion of casual employment.
Addressing journalists at Parliament on Good Friday, a section of UWOPA members applauded the passing of the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2019, saying that it will help strengthen the protection of workers’ rights in Uganda and promote gender equality.
Lucy Akello, the Amuru Woman MP said that for the last 15 years, Uganda has been riding on the Employment Act, 2006, which has a very narrow scope on the regulation of domestic workers, employers of domestic workers and recruitment agencies.
“For instance, Section 38 (3) of the principle Act is to the effect that no permit was required for a person or company to recruit and place a domestic servant,” she said. Akello who doubles as the UWOPA Secretary General also noted that maternity protection at the workplace is very important not only for women but also men.
She says that they are still advocating for an amendment to increase the paternity leave from three days to at least 15 days so that men can also take care of their babies at the time of delivery.
Isaac Mulindwa, the Lugazi Municipality MP also says the new law will protect casual, domestic, and immigrant workers who have been marginalized for so many years.
He also says that the explicit provision promoting the rights of breastfeeding mothers is important since they were left out under the Employment Act, 2006. The current law only provides for leave, benefit, job protection and others leaving out breastfeeding breaks and breastfeeding facilities, which Mulindwa says are key according to the World Health Organisation –WHO.
The MPs appealed to President Museveni to assent to the Bill as a sign of his commitment to protecting the rights of workers in Uganda and promoting gender equality in the country.
Key provisions in Bill
The other key provisions in the Bill is a requirement for all employers to put in place measures to prevent sexual harassment at work places, empower the Minister to prescribe model contracts for domestic workers, casual workers or household employees, prohibit employment of persons below the age of 16 years as domestic workers and others.
The others are a requirement of a written contract of service for migrant workers who are recruited in Uganda for work in another country before departure, provision of a written job offer or contract of employment that is enforceable in the country in which the work is to be performed. It also requires recruitment agencies to obtain a permit, provide for explicit formula for the calculation and payment of severance allowance and others.
Established during the 5th Parliament (1989-1994), UWOPA is a caucus comprising of female Members of Parliament but also open to male members as associates or honorary members. It aims at engendering the legislative process, creating awareness campaigns and encouraging lobbying and advocacy.
There are 152 female MPs in the current parliament. The 11th Parliament set to open in May 2021 will have 173 female MPs out of 529 legislators. These include District Woman MPs, directly elected women and others.