Labour act to include workplace abuse

By Shallot Mohutege

THE Ministry of Labour is in the process of amending the Labour Act to cater for violence and harassment in the workplace. The ministry’s’ Executive Director Bro-Matthew Shinguadja has said.

He said this was decided after a joint assessment was done by the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2019.

According to Shinguadja the report, ‘Violence and harassment in the world of work in Namibia rapid assessment’ found that the current act does not accommodate violence in the workplace and only focuses on remuneration of employees after leaving work and unfair dismissal.

“The Ministry and the International Labour Organisation carried out a survey to find shortcomings in the current Labour Act and found that there are no provisions against violence nor harassment within the workplace because the Ministry of Labour has no defined mechanism in place to deal with such cases,” he said.

Although Shinguadja could not give a specific date on when the act is expected to be tabled, he said the ministry is done with the final amendment draft and will send it to the Labour Advisory Council for recommendation.

The report seen by Confidente detailed complaint reports made to the Ministry of Labour do not include incidences of violence or harassment in places of employment and the template for reporting labour issues does not include complaints of such nature.

It also revealed that a significant number of employees in the domestic, security and retail sectors have been sexually, physically, and/or verbally abused by their employers, co-workers and/or clients while at work.

“At least 34 percent of the 300 workers, especially women in those sectors have been sexually harassed, mostly by their bosses and supervisors or co-workers while 85 out of 300 employees have been insulted, called stupid, and or ugly by either their bosses, clients or strangers while 45 out of 300 employees have been slapped, beaten and/or kicked around by their bosses, co-workers or clients.”

According to the report, 104 out 300 employees in these sectors have reportedly been shouted at for no apparent reasons even in front of other people.

“In some instances some of the employees especially women within those sectors have been raped or have had to perform non-consensual sexual acts with their bosses who often threaten to fire them if they do not comply.”

According to the report, 113 of 300 employees in these sectors hated going to work due to the way in which they are treated while more than 80 percent of these workers said they would not recommend their children to pursue jobs in the same sectors they work in, as not only are they underpaid but also constantly abused and disrespected.

The report revealed that for the first quarter of 2019 -in the Khomas region- 733 cases of violence or harassment at work were reported to the labour inspector.

Other findings were that such abuse often involves powerful people, who are well connected, who usually find ways to evade prosecution.

“None of the key informants we spoke to were aware of any case of violence and or harassment that had led to conviction and were of the opinion that most, if not all cases were settled out of court.

“Victims were either compensated or bribed by perpetrators to drop the cases. In cases where a man was raped by his male supervisor, a criminal case was made but not followed through. In the end the victim was transferred.”

In most instances, the report also showed, victims would rather sweep the case under the rug with reasons such as ‘nothing had happened or had not received feedback’ while few said they had received compensation, an apology, or the perpetrator had been reprimanded.

Despite the harsh conditions these employees work in 21 percent of these did not report abuse they faced during the course of their duties as they either fear losing their jobs or feel that the bosses have the right to behave in such a manner.