GENDER AND THE LABOUR LAW
GENDER RESEARCH & ADVOCACY PROJECT
LABOUR ACT 2007 AND RELATED LABOUR ISSUES
The Labour Act 2004 (passed but never brought completely into force) was completely replaced in 2007 by a new Labour Act. GR&AP monitored the bill to ensure that t new labour Acthe provisions we had previously advocated successfully on sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, maternity leave and family leave remained in place – which they did. We made submissions on these and other human rights issues to the Ministry of Labour, copied to the National Union of Namibian Workers, the Namibian Employers Federation, and the International Labour Organisation, and most of our concerns were addressed in the latest bill before it became final. GR&AP also made submissions to the Ministry of Labour on the draft Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment.
GR&AP has produced a simple 8-page information booklet about the provisions relating to gender in the 2007 Labour Act. This guide is available in English, Oshiwambo and Afrikaans. GR&AP has also prepared a short training session about Gender and the Labour Act, and a comic on sexual harassment in English, Oshiwambo and Afrikaans.
GR&AP worked with Huricon and Advocate Esi Schimming-Chase to litigate a test case on sexual harassment involving a young woman who was allegedly harassed at the workplace by her immediate supervisor. This case was part heard by the court in September 2007, and then continued in February 2008. The matter was settled in terms favourable to our client before the case’s conclusion, and the settlement order stipulated that GR&AP would be allowed to publish an article about the case, without identifying the parties involved. Read this article about sexual harassment here.
The Discussion Document on Child Labour in Namibia published by the Ministry of Labour and Child Welfare in March 2007 cites LAC research and recommendations extensively, particularly on sex work, domestic work, trafficking and child justice. GR&AP subsequently made submissions to the Programme Advisory Committee on Child Labour (PACC) on legal issues which were incorporated into Namibia’s Action Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour.
Through its work with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare on the forthcoming Child Care and Protection Act, GR&AP was also able to put forward proposals for strengthening legal provisions on the worst forms of child labour and on child trafficking.
Read an article from our archive (2004): Making the labour bill more gender-sensitive; (2004) Is Namibia ready for paternity leave?
LOBBYING FOR AN EXTENSION OF MATERNITY LEAVE
In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week in 2012, GR&AP released a press release calling on the government to extend maternity benefits. This is because the World Health Organisation recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their children for six months. However breastfeeding in Namibia is low - the percentage of mothers who exclusively breastfeed their children for 0-2 months is 53.6%, dropping to 22.9% for children aged 2-3 months and further dropping to 5.7% for children aged 4.5 months.
One contributing factor is the lack of public awareness about the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Another contributing factor is that maternity leave is only three months, with one month taken before the birth of the child. The maternity leave provision is a push factor for many mothers to wean their children early. Furthermore, the recently released government National Agenda for Children states that one of the government’s priority strategies is to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life; however the report does not make it clear how the government intends to balance this commitment with the Labour Act and Social Security Commission’s current provision of three rather than six months maternity leave.
The LAC intends to continue lobbying on this issue.
THE RIGHTS OF DOMESTIC WORKERS
In 2010 GR&AP placed a particular focus on the rights of domestic workers. In the pre-independence labour law domestic workers were completely excluded from the basic working conditions in pre-Independence labour law. Whilst much progress has been made since then, the challenge remains that the rights of domestic workers are often overlooked.
According to a study conducted by the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) in 2008 - the first of its kind since 1996, when the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) and the Social Science Division of the University of Namibia (SSD) published an initial report on the sector (read the summary)- the majority of domestic workers are single women between the ages of 21 and 40 who support, on average, 2 to 6 dependants. Most of them work long hours without breaks or meals. Social security benefits, medical aid and pensions are largely non-existent in the industry. For the 20% who live in the houses of their employers, the likelihood of unpaid overtime, lack of benefits, low wages and abuse is even higher on average than for non-live-in workers. Domestic workers are clearly some of the most neglected and vulnerable women in the country.
To help protect the rights of domestic workers, GR&AP has developed a sample contract that employers can use. GR&AP has also produced a factsheet about the rights of domestic workers to ensure that both employers and domestic workers understand their rights. These include, for example, the need to register a domestic worker with the Social Security Commission, a requirement that many people seem to be unaware of. We have also produced a comic on how to claim social security benefits, with the main character in the story being a domestic worker. The comic is available in English, Oshiwambo and Afrikaans.
Read two articles about the rights of domestic workers and the need for a minimum wage here: opinion piece one and opinion piece two.
Read our report on our advocacy work in this area.