The employer who hires the services of a worker is mandated under the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) to fulfill some rights and obligations within the employment relationship in order to ensure that both parties co-exist in a peaceful and harmonious working environment.
Whilst Section 8 outlines the rights of the employer as among others to employ a worker, discipline, transfer, promote and terminate the employment of the worker, Section 9 imposes some duties or obligations on the employer such as to provide work and appropriate raw materials, machinery, equipment and tools, pay agreed remuneration per the contract of employment, take all practical steps to ensure the worker is free from risk and injury, develop the human resources through capacity building, furnish the worker with a copy of the contract of employment and also to protect the interest of the workers.
In Section 12&13, the Law further elaborates on the contract of employment and written particulars of employment which the employer should furnish the worker within two months of commencement of work.
These particulars are either contained in a Staff Hand Book, Conditions of Service or Collective Agreement or any other related document as the case may be.
Basically, the document is intended to outline the conditions of employment which include the right to agreed and or negotiated wages and salaries, right to annual leave, right to reasonable notice of termination of contract, grounds for termination, dismissal and redundancy among others.
These particulars also serve as a guide to regulating the employment relationship and will become the reference document in the event of an industrial dispute either in the court or at an adjudicating forum such as the National Labour Commission (NLC).
In implementing the Labour Act 2003, (Act 651) and after ten (10) years of its promulgation to enhance industrial relations practice in Ghana, the question that many complainants or petitioners have posed to the Public Affairs Unit of the NLC is whether or not the employer is apprised of its obligations? And if indeed the employer is well equipped with his or her duties as contained in the Law, how come they continue to breach agreements reached between the parties or offered at the time of the employment that governs the relationship.
First and foremost, it is important to emphasize that the employment relationship commences the moment an offer of employment is made and an acceptance is given. In other cases, a contract of employment can be verbal or written. But whether the contract is written a verbal, once there is a working relationship, there is an agreement, and this agreement should be respected by the parties.
Evidence, however, before the NLC shows that in many instances some employers disrespect the employment contract thereby leading to industrial disputes. For example, statistics reveal that some workers worked without any form of contract from between one year to thirty years. In such situations, when a dispute occurs the employer denies any form of employment relationship since in most situations such workers are paid on “table top” and not through any formal means. Unfortunately, such workers are also denied SSNIT contributions, thus jeopardizing their retirement.
Further investigations reveal that the demand for contract of employment may sometimes lead to victimization which is followed by termination of employment or even denials with threat of termination of employment.
Consequent to the advanced exposition, it is important to reiterate that ignorance of the Law is no excuse and it is therefore incumbent on the employers to strictly adhere to the Labour Law in Schedule 1 of Act 651 which enjoins all employers both domestic and foreigners to provide written contract of employment to workers as failure to do so will be a violation of the employers’ duties and obligations under the employment relationship.