The obligations and rights of employers and employees under an employment contract

Employees are the most valuable assets of every organisation because they are the key drivers to the success of their employers. It is therefore vital that the employers commit themselves towards maintenance of good employment relations with their employees. The relationship in a contract of employment is a two way system and for it to subsist each part has to fulfil its obligations since obligations of the other party are the rights of the other party vice versa. According to Mucheche (2014) the umbilical code between an employer and an employee is a contract of employment whose evolution is embedded in the common law. It is however important to note that the employment contract has since evolved to incorporate international and domestic pieces of legislation which has come with more obligations and rights.

The employer is obliged to pay the employee regularly for the service rendered. Employees who are paid in time are motivated compared to those who go for months without getting their salaries. Section 12A (3) of the Labour Act Chapter 28.01 provides that remuneration must be paid regularly. It is noted though, that some organisations have not been able to honour their obligation to pay in time due to economic challenges. This practice has affected morale of workers, hence affecting productivity.

The employer also has the obligation to ensure safe working environment for workers, failure to do so would result in closure of companies by statutory bodies like NSSA and Labour Relations authorities. Safety is a statutory requirement and it is the only circumstance where employees are allowed to embark on collective job action without giving notice and are protected by the provisions of section 104(4)(a) of the Labour Act.

Provision of materials and implements necessary for the performance of work is another obligation of the employer. Failure to provide material especially in the production and construction industry will result in work stoppage at the expense of the employer. On the other hand, failure to provide adequate and proper tools will result in poor performance and demotivation which in turn affect the productivity of the organisation.

The other obligation by the employer is to ensure that employees are provided with work to do and are allowed to rest at least one day every week as well as during the public holidays and when they require leave on regular basis.

While the above issues are some of the obligations of the employer, it is also vital to note that the employment relationship is reciprocal and the obligations of the employers become the rights of the employees. The employees are obliged to be subordinate to their employers if the employment relationship is to subsist. Employees are therefore guided by rules and regulations at the workplace and most of the organisations have got codes of conduct and collective bargaining agreements which guides the conduct of employees. Codes of conducts are provided for on section 101 of the Labour Act.

Employees are entrusted with valuable assets of their employers so they are obliged to be loyal since they are custodians of employers’ property. It is also critical that employees must exercise due care when using employers property since negligence can lead to loss of property and human life. For example, improper use of machines can lead to injury or death. Unauthorised use of equipment or vehicles may lead to unnecessary costs for the company in case of accidents. The principle of vicarious liability will apply under such circumstances.

The employees should provide themselves for work and this is one of the most crucial obligations which can affect the employment relationship to the root if not monitored. Absenteeism for five consecutive days is one of the most serious misconducts since the employer will be deprived of productivity and financial gain. It is classified as dismissible offence in terms of section 4 of Statutory Instrument 15 of 2006, National Employment Code of Conduct. The principle of no work no pay applies for employees who fail to avail themselves for work without valid reasons. Employees have to provide the service personally and no third party must offer service in contract of employment.

While employees are obliged to abide by the issues discussed above they also have legal rights which must be observed by the employers. Section 65 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 20 Act of 2013 deals with labour rights. Subsection 2 of the aforesaid section provides that except for the members of security service every person has the right to form or join a trade union. International Labour Organisation convention number 87 also provides the same. Section 104(4) of the Labour Act also concur with section 65(3) of the constitution that employees have the right to embark on collective job action to address a dispute of interest. Where employees feel that their right to existence of workers committee or trade union is threatened they may embark on collective job action without following the pre- requisites stated on section 104.

The employees also have right to collective bargaining as provided by convention number 98 as well as section 65(5) of the constitution of Zimbabwe. The rights of employees also include right to just, equitable, fair and reasonable wage, right to collective job action, right to equal remuneration regardless of gender and right to fully paid maternity leave for a period of at least three months for women employees.

The rights of employees are also captured on part II of the Labour Act which spells out fundamental rights of employees. Among these rights are employees` rights to entitlement of membership of a trade union and workers committee, right not to be discriminated, right to fair labour standards and right to democracy at the workplace.

It is therefore important to note that an employment relationship can only subsist if all concerned parties adhere to their obligations. The rights of parties are legally provided by common law and legal provisions in the constitution, the labour Act and ILO conventions and other subsidiary labour legislation.

Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and must not be taken as legal advice. Simbarashe Gobvu is an experienced La­bour Practitioner and an Independent Arbitrator who write in his own capac­ity. He can be contact­ed at [email protected]/ Phone 0773215904 or 0713008767

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