GENDER AND THE LABOUR LAW
GENDER RESEARCH & ADVOCACY PROJECT
ENCOURAGING EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES IN THE WORKPLACE
This pamphlet summarises
provisions from the Labour Act 9 of 2007, the Foreign Investments Act 27 of
1990, the Co-operatives Act 23 of 1996, and the Affirmative Action (Employment)
Act 29 of 1998.
The pamphlet provides ideas on how an employer can put the
provisions into meaningful practice and gives suggestions on how to go beyond the
basic provisions to encourage real and practical change that will encourage
equal opportunities in the workplace.
The pamphlet is intended
for employers and employees alike and it is hoped that the information, now
provided in a simple and accessible form, is utilised by many workplaces to
encourage positive change in the employment environment in Namibia.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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. A
contract as gazetted in2014 is available here.
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.