What Labour Day really means to an employee

Labour Day is celebrated globally by workers on the 1st of May.

In Kenya specifically, aside from being an additional rest day, it is a very important day as workers await the President’s (or Representative’s) big announcement; the revision of salaries. You will notice that a few weeks to Labour Day, the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General, Bro. Atwoli is normally very vocal on worker issues. For employers, every 1st May is a headache because it means they have to dig deeper into their pockets in order to accommodate the new directive. This year, the President announced a wage increment of 12% as you are all aware. It’s an election year you know!!!

I’ve been contacted by a couple of people seeking advise on whether they should expect salary revisions from their employers to this effect. To answer that, you need to understand a few things about this announcement. The President’s (or Representative’s) declaration on Labour Day gives birth to what we call the Regulation of Wages Order under the Labour Institutions Act 2007, which determines the minimum wage for certain categories of employees. The announcement affects those who we sometimes like to refer to as ‘low income earners’. Management staff are exempted from this Order. Once the declaration is made, the government printer publishes a Gazette Notice on the specifics of the increment. The last Gazette Notice on this was made I believe in 2018 when the last increment was done (you may google Regulation of Wages (General) Order 2018). The Gazette Notice rarely comes out immediately after the announcement even though the implementation is effected as directed during the announcement. For employers who insist on seeing the Gazette Notice before implementation (which mostly comes out around August), the challenge is that they may be forced to backdate the payments to 1st May, especially when they are dealing with unionized staff. Do not even get me started on dealing with Union officials because these guys can hunt and haunt you in your sleep.

Salaries under the Wages Order vary depending on where you work. If your job location is in the city (Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa and Nakuru), your salary is different from (higher than) those working in former Municipalities and Town Councils. If your location is outside of the areas indicated, the wages are much lower. The argument behind this arrangement is that the cost of living in these areas are not the same. When you read through the Wages Order, you will also notice that some amounts have been computed inclusive of the House Allowance while others are exclusive of so you must take this into account when effecting the changes. House Allowance is 15% of the Basic salary.

As an employee therefore, if you do not fall under the categories stated in the Wages Order, you may want to negotiate your salary with the employer (without making reference to the President’s announcement) as this does not affect you. Alternatively, for employees who work where employers do an annual salary review for all the staff, you may want to wait for that.

Happy belated Labour Day my fellow workers!


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