Ghana needs a national living wage policy – Osei-kissi

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Discussions for a new daily minimum wage for workers in the public sector resume
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Mr. Stephen Osei-kissi, Head of the Greater Accra Regional Secretariat of the National Labour Commission (NLC) has advocated for Ghanaian workers to be paid a living wage during the UKGCC’s latest webinar on ‘Navigating Ghana’s Labour Laws and Regulations’.

According to Mr. Osei-Kissi, the living wage considers factors such as food, water, housing, transportation, healthcare, electricity, clothing and makes provision for unexpected events. He further remarked that the current minimum wage of GHS14.88 which is based on a day’s work, as negotiated by the government, is inadequate when compared with the elements of the living wage.

“We can be satisfied that the current minimum wage of GHS14.88 is woefully inadequate because it does not have room for the elements in the living wage. It also does not take cognisance of a person’s marital status, the number of children they have, their position, transportation, housing and issues like that so between the living wage and minimum wage, I will be an advocate for a living wage”.

Theophilus Tawiah, Managing Partner at WTS Nobisfields, lecturer at the University of Professional Studies, and moderator of the webinar, concurred with Mr. Osei-Kissi, adding that the current daily wage undermines the economic growth of such recipients.

Asked whether there will ever be a time when Ghana offers an hourly wage, Mr. Osei-Kissi was hopeful, based on the number of calls supporting such a policy. He, however, asserted that he does not see it happening soon because those making the calls lack the support of society and government.

“I know there’s been a number of calls to have our minimum wage not to reflect a day but to be reflective of an hourly basis so that if every worker is having a minimum wage as we have now, GHS14.88 for every hour of work, automatically … it would mean that on the average, every worker in Ghana, irrespective of your qualification, the minimum salary that any worker should be carrying home, should be within the region of GHS2,000 and above.”

Ghana’s Labour Act 2003 (Act 651)

Speaking to a wide range of issues relating to Ghana’s labour laws and regulations, Mr. Osei-Kissi remarked that the Labour Act, 2003 came into force to properly consolidate the various laws governing labour. According to him, this Act aligns with the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) conventions and is gender sensitive.

He further explained that the Act applies to all workers and employers except the Armed Forces, Police Service, Prison Service and all other security agencies under the Security and Intelligence Act, 2020 (Act 1030).

Mr. Osei-kissi further remarked that the Labour Act, 2003 is a user-friendly legislation and provides a more responsive and flexible legal regime that will allow a proactive treatment and resolution of labour issues and disputes.

Employment Relationship
Addressing the issue of employment contracts, Mr. Stephen Osei-Kissi advised employers to document the recruitment process.

He said, “once you know that whatever employment relationship you are seeking to build will run beyond 12 months, secure it with an appointment letter. It is to serve your interest as an employer and to serve the interest of the person you are bringing in as an employee so that if there are issues, we know what to do and what not to do”.

Employee Leave

Mr. Osei-Kissi also discussed issues pertaining to employee leave. According to him, the Labour law has made provision for employees to be entitled a minimum of 15 working days as leave within a given year, 12 weeks maternity leave, and in the case of twins 14 weeks for expectant mothers. He, however, stated that in labour administration, it is only a certified Medical Officer that can tell how long a person should stay away from work because of an illness.

Mr. Osei-Kissi, therefore, urged all employers to develop policies that regulate issues on sick leave because it is one of the grounds to terminate an employment contract under Section 15 of the Labour Act.

Termination of Appointment

Mr. Osei-Kissi revealed that 6 out of 10 labour issues received by the Commission are on unfair termination. According to him, the Commission’s ruling in any labour dispute is based on the provision in the Act that seeks to protect employment, exert discipline and provide direction on how it should be done.

These instances will then determine whether a person’s termination will be deemed fair or unfair.

“So, depending on where you find yourself or the instance, we will look at those provisions under the labour law and we will treat the situation because Section 15 requires that there should be grounds for termination and Section 17 calls for notice of termination. Then when you move from 15 and 17, it will come to Sections 62, 63, 64, which have provisions for what will constitute a fair or unfair termination and the avenue to resolve either through a re-instatement, re-engagement or whether you are asked to pay a compensation for the unfair act that has been meted out to the other party”.

According to Mr. Osei-Kissi, it is problematic when the employment contract is silent on the grounds for termination.

He remarked that “at all material times, if an employer is not able to provide a ground or some fair reason as to why the employment relationship must come to an end, then there are certain questions to answer because Section 62 states that termination must be based on proven incompetence of a worker, proven misconduct, redundancy or legal restriction imposed on an employee prohibiting the worker from performing their work”.

He also noted that since the Labour Commission deals largely with issues of termination, all stakeholders must carefully investigate these issues and get a fair balance for everyone involved.

Mr. Kissi-Osei recommended that employers have disciplinary committees to investigate issues of misconduct to ensure a definite direction in breach of rules at the workplace. He urged that such processes be done in writing for clarity if such disputes go before the Commission.

He again urged employers to develop HR manuals and workplace policies to protect all parties in the labour relationship because contracts of employment are not able to cater for all issues of misconduct and the processes to address them.

Mr. Ossei-Kissi also discussed a wide range of topics under the labour Act, providing insight into matters on redundancy, the employment of foreign nationals, payment of bonuses, and others.

The webinar was was the second in the UKGCC and WTS Nobisfield’s 2023 webinar series on Mandatory Regulatory Compliance for Businesses in Ghana.

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