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Employer obligations on contracts

Following my last installment on employments contracts, I have received a number of questions which l am going to be clarifying herein pertaining to types of employment contracts.

REPORT BY REQUEST MACHIMBIRA

Types of Employment Contracts

The major types of employment contracts in terms of the Labour Act, Chapter 28.01 are:

  • Contract without limit of time
  • Fixed-Term Contract
  • Contract for Casual
  • Contract for Seasonal Work
  • Independent Contractor

The major distinguishing factor in employment contracts relates to time or period of engagement. Another distinguishing factor in employment contracts is the notice entitlement with respect to termination of such contract. I shall proceed to elaborate the provisions of each type of employment contract.

Fixed-term contracts

These are contracts that have a limit of time. It is further crucial to observe that the Labour Act did not stipulate the minimum and maximum limits of fixed-term contracts. Nevertheless, the general principle is that the Labour Act is averse to the casualisation of labour.

I have observed a sickening trend in a number of organisations when an employee perpetually renews an employment contract for more than ten years. Such contracts will be of shorter duration, for example, three months.

Whilst there is no categorical violation of any domestic statute, the juristic view is that such conduct is tantamount to casualisation of labour. The case of Rachel Kadzinga and Others vs Devstar Clothing provides an authoritative judicial guidance in this matter.

My advice to employers and human resources practitioners is that they must desist from operating like labour technicians. They must be able to balance morality and legality. If a job is available throughout the year and the following, why then make it a three- month contract?

Contract for casual

The Labour Act defines a casual work as “…work for which an employee is engaged for not more than a total of six weeks in any four consecutive months”.

This definition is subject to abuse. The Labour Act has not defined the type of work. It is certainly impossible to have a casual managing director or medical officer.

Usually, casual employment is of a general nature, where one is engaged and there is no requirement for any specialised skill and that such work crops up, disappears and maybe reappears e.g loading, offloading, slashing grass, etc.

I struggle to believe that an accounts clerk, fuel attendant or till operator can be put on a casual contract.

Failure to observe the time-frame regulations on a casual contract, and not a fixed-term contract, may result in claims of permanent employment status. These may become legally endorsed depending on the degree of the violation.

Contract without limit

Section 12 (3) of the Labour Act states that, ‘“…a contract of employment that does not specify its duration or date of termination, other than a contract for casual work or seasonal work or for performance of some specific service shall be deemed to be a contract without limit of time…
“For any contract which does not specify the limit of time, the minimum notice entitlement is three months.”

Request Machimbira is the Group Chief Executive Officer for Proficiency Consulting Group International and StrategyWorld Consulting. For feedback, email proficiencyconsulting@gmail.com or visit website www.proficiencyinternational.com. Phone 0772 693 404/ 0776 228 575. Facebook Profile: RequestTinashe Machimbira

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