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Leave policy in Kenya

Leave policy in Kenya
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Kenya is an attractive talent source for companies looking to expand their global workforce into Africa. The country has a ready workforce thanks to its high literacy rate of 81.5%.

Communicating with your Kenyan employees will also be smooth, thanks to the country's high internet connectivity and speeds. The state of Kenya's internet has also propelled it into being a tech hub, earning it the moniker Silicon Savannah. Major tech companies like Microsoft and Google have set up shops in the country and avail themselves of excellent connectivity.

While Kenya can provide your business with reliable talent, you need to comply with its employment regulations to hire successfully in the country. This will not only protect you from legal problems but also ensure that your employees are comfortable while working for you. Among the most important rules to comply with are employee leave entitlements.

Kenya's employment regulations can be found in its Employment Act. Here's what you should know about Kenya's leave policy to successfully hire employees in the country.

Standard working hours and overtime in Kenya

While Kenyan law doesn't specifically dictate the typical workweek and hours, most companies operate on a workweek of between 40 and 52 hours. The standard workweek will depend on your company’s policies, existing collective bargaining agreements, or employment contracts.

An employee is considered to have worked overtime if they perform work beyond their typical working hours. Employees who work overtime are entitled to 150% of their normal wage.

It's against Kenyan law to force employees to work overtime, but employers are allowed to schedule overtime for their employees, especially in fields that call for it. For instance, health workers might be required to work overtime to help save patients' lives.

While the law doesn't address the question of rest interval in a typical workday, it does specify that employees are entitled to a 24-hour rest day within every seven days of work.

However, you can mutually agree to defer this rest day with your employee. They'll either take their rest day on the next day or accumulate deferred rest days. Once accumulated, these rest days can be turned into a paid leave of 14 days at the maximum point.

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Public holidays in Kenya

Kenyans observe 13 public holidays:

Date Public Holiday Special Remarks
January 1 New Year’s Day
Good Friday Depends on the lunar cycle
Easter Monday
May 1 Labor Day
June 1 Madaraka Day
Eid al-Fitr Depends on the same lunar cycle
Eid al-Ardha Depends on the lunar cycle
October 10 Utamaduni Day Formerly known as Moi Day
October 20 Mashujaa Day Formerly known as Kenyatta Day
December 12 Jamhuri Day Kenya’s Independence Day
December 25 Christmas Day

If a Kenyan public holiday falls on a Sunday, the holiday is deferred to the next working day that isn't a public holiday. For instance, if Mashujaa Day falls on a Sunday, the holiday will be transferred to Monday. The Sunday it fell on won't be considered a public holiday.

The day of Kenya's general election and the day that the president-elect is sworn in are usually public holidays, according to Kenya’s Public Holiday Act. The government reserves the right to add or move a public holiday.

Kenyan employees are entitled to full pay during public holidays. If an employee performs any duties on a public holiday, they're compensated at 200% of their typical pay.

Types of leave in Kenya

Kenyan employees enjoy five types of leaves under Kenyan law.

Annual leave in Kenya

Kenyan employees are entitled to at least 21 days of paid leave per 12 months of employment. The length of the paid leave can be greater depending on your contract with the employee or the existence of a collective bargaining agreement. Leave days are calculated at a rate of 1.75 days per month of employment. Public holidays and rest days aren't included in an employee's annual leave.

Employees are entitled to full pay during their annual leave.

You can mutually agree with your employee to spread out their leave days to different parts of the year. The government outlines that the minimum portion of the 21-day leave an employee can generally take is 14 days per 12-month period unless they establish a different agreement with their employer.

The employee can then roll over the remaining leave days to the next year. However, employees who roll over their leave days have 18 months to use their unused leave days once the year in which they earned the leave lapses. If an employee doesn't use their leave days by then, they automatically forfeit them.

As an employer, you're not allowed to offer employees compensation in exchange for forfeiting leave days. The only time leave days can be replaced with compensation is during the termination, resignation, or end of an employee's contract.

Employees who have worked for at least two months in the calendar year are entitled to annual leave compensation upon termination. They receive full payment for all leave days they accrue, with the leave days being calculated at one and a three-quarter (1.75) days per month of employment.

Sick leave in Kenya

Employees are entitled to 14 days of sick leave per 12 months of employment after working for you for a minimum of two months.

You're required to pay the employee 100% of their regular wages for the first seven days of sick leave. The extra seven days of sick leave are paid at 50% of the employee's regular wages.

Employees are required to present you with a medical certificate to confirm their incapacity to perform their duties. The certificate should come from a medical professional or anyone working on behalf of the professional.

Maternity leave in Kenya

All Kenyan female employees are entitled to three months of maternity leave. You're required to pay any employee on maternity leave their normal wages during the maternity leave period.

You can always grant an employee an extension of their maternity leave. Employees can also take their annual leave (with your consent) or sick leave immediately after maternity leave.

For employees to activate their right to maternity leave, they need to present a written notice to you at least one week before the date they want to start their leave. The notice should inform you of their intention to go on maternity leave. However, an employee can give a shorter notice if her situation doesn't allow her to give at least a week's notice.

Kenyan law doesn't provide a directive on how early maternity leave should commence before birth.

As an employer, you can request a certificate from a medical practitioner or midwife to verify your employee's maternity leave request.  

Once the maternity leave lapses, employees should typically get back to the same job they had before the leave. Alternatively, they can resume work under a different title, but never in less favorable working terms and conditions.

Demoting or terminating an employee during or immediately after maternity leave can be regarded as discriminatory. It’s also considered discriminatory to ask employees about their pregnancy status or pregnancy plans during recruitment. Employers cannot require applicants to take pregnancy screening tests unless the role for which they’re applying will pose a risk to the pregnancy.

Paternity leave in Kenya

Male employees have a right to two weeks of paternity leave. You're required to pay them at their regular salary throughout this period.

Kenyan law does not recognize same-sex relationships or offer parental leave to same-sex partners.

Pre-adoptive leave in Kenya

The Kenyan government amended the Employment Act in 2021 to turn pre-adoptive leave entitlement into law. This leave ensures that employees who are planning to adopt can spend some quality time with their adopted kids.

Employees who plan to adopt are entitled to at least one month of pre-adoptive leave. They’ll receive full pay throughout the leave period.

For an employee to activate their right to pre-adoptive leave, they need to present a written notice to you 14 days before the child’s placement date. The written notice should be accompanied by the employee’s custody agreement with the adoption society and an exit certificate.

The pre-adoptive leave starts on the day of the child’s placement.

Employees can extend their pre-adoptive leave with your consent. They can also extend it by taking sick leave, annual leave (with your consent), or compassionate leave.

Employees who take pre-adoptive leave have a right to return to the workplace role they held before the leave. Alternatively, they can move to a new role whose terms and conditions aren’t less favorable than those of their previous role.

It’s illegal to force employees to forfeit their annual leave because they took pre-adoptive leave.

Other leaves not included in the Employment Act

While the employment act doesn't include the following leaves, most employers offer them. Some of these leaves include:

Compassionate leave

This leave is offered to employees who encounter unexpected circumstances for which they had not planned. These circumstances can be the death or illness of a friend or loved one. Your company policy should determine the exact days of the leave.

Leave of absence

Employees can request a leave of absence to attend to their personal duties. The leave of absence is typically unpaid. Your company policies will dictate how long the leave of absence will last.

Compulsory leave

You can impose compulsory leave on your employee. This leave typically precedes investigations into an employee's misconduct and is often followed by disciplinary actions. Your company policies will determine the suitable compulsory leave period.

Hire Employees Successfully With Skuad

Kenya has a ready and hardworking workforce for any employer who can comply with her employment laws. The country's friendliness to international employers also makes her an attractive talent pool. Learn how to comply with Kenyan employment law and extend your team into the Silicon Savannah.

If you're looking for a global employment and payroll that'll make it easier to hire Kenyan employees, start working with Skuad today. Our platform streamlines onboarding, payroll, compliance and more for you. We work overtime to eliminate any hiccups when employing globally.

Request your demo today to see what Skuad can do for your business.

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