Looking at Ghana's corporate landscape, not only is the former president's description true, it describes the bane of employee productivity in Ghana and the associated growth of organisations.
Market analyst Collins Awuku works in Ghana for an international investment firm, he has a bachelor's degree in banking and finance from the University of Ghana, a professional certificate from the Institute of Bankers Ghana and has also completed all the required Ghana Stock Exchange courses to qualify as a stockbroker in the Ghana.
He can’t disclose his salary but he shares all other terms of his employment.
"I work from Monday to Saturday. But that's just on paper, I am required to work on Sundays as well, but that is more often than not. I am entitled to a 20- day annual leave. Report time to work is 8 am, and I close when my day's task is done, which is averagely 7pm at night."
This is a familiar story through Ghana.
Retail workers, emergency service providers and journalists among many others work really odd hours and are seldom compensated for it.
Analysing Collins' working condition, his employers, just like most corporate institutions in Ghana, are breaking the law. We have laws regulating working hours, overtime compensation and working days.
But why is Collins not challenging these terms in the court of law?
Organisational psychologist and a HR lecturer at the University of Ghana Business school, Dr. Kwasi Amponsah- Tawiah has an answer:
" I think the Ghanaian worker is not assertive enough. But you can't blame them much because of the high unemployment rate in the country. And we have most employers taking advantage of it."
‘For example, nothing stops an employee from telling his boss, in a polite manner, that his working hours are over, and thus he would like to consider the additional work tomorrow. But the the employee won't do this for fear of being fired."
The Ghanaian worker's non- assertiveness notwithstanding, how many actually know the labour laws and how they protect them against abuse.
This guide sets to remedy that.
1. Working Hours.
According to Ghana's labour laws, Labour (Act 651)2003 §33-38, an employee’s normal daily hours of work total eight, they can work longer hours at a particular time, provided the average working hours do not exceed the normal working hours, and must not exceed a total working hours of 40 hours a week.
For seasonal work, a worker may work for 10 hours per day, provided that average working hours during the year must not exceed 8 hours a day. Working hours for shift workers also must not exceed normal working hours.
Those doing manual labour and hazardous work are meant to have shorter days, provided the working hours should be deemed to be equivalent to work done on the basis of eight hours a day for the purpose of all rights which may flow from the employment.
Clearly, per the stipulation of the the labour law, Collins' rights are being abused by his employers.
Dr. Amponsah- Tawiah says, " with the exception of managerial staff, lower level employees are required to work for eight hours, and this must be respected. Any other hours are deemed overtime and must be remunerated accordingly."
One common excuse HR managers give is that the nature of the employee's job means sticking to these laws is not possible. .
But Dr. Amponsah Tawiah says, that must not be the burden of the employee, but rather the employer.
" It is the job of the employer to know the human resource requirements of their business, and make adequate provisions in human resource for that. The worker is not supposed to work longer than the stipulated time because of the nature of the job. There must be provision made for a shift- system if the nature of the business is continuous."
This brings us to the next problem area.
2. Overtime Compensation
A worker may not be required to perform overtime work, exceeding normal working hours, unless there are fixed rates of pay for overtime work. However, the law does not fix the rate of overtime remuneration. Overtime hours are usually paid at 150% of the normal hourly wage
Additionally, the labour act 2003 (Act 651)2003 §33-38 clearly states workers do not have to do overtime unless during an emergency for the viability of the business or to prevent or avoid threat to life and property.
A worker may be required to work beyond the fixed hours of work without additional pay in certain exceptional circumstances including an accident threatening human lives or the very existence of the undertaking.
This means that the employer is excused from paying overtime, only if it has to do with saving lives or the business at a particular point. So for example if your service as a lawyer is required by the firm you work for in order to save your employer from a damaging, fatal lawsuit, you cannot demand payment before you carry out the service.
3. Weekly Rest Days
Another trouble topic in employer- employee engagement is the right to two days off.
Most employers are reluctant to grant employees resting days. Again, they argue that the nature of the business and the requirement of the employee will make it difficult to grant resting days.
But again the law is clear on the kinds of jobs that are exempted from the two day resting day stipulation.
As the law clearly states:
Workers, except domestic workers in private homes and task-based workers, are entitled to forty-eight consecutive hours (2 days) of rest per week. The weekly rest days are usually Saturday and Sunday. Weekly rest period is independent of public holidays.
Apart from weekly rest days, workers are also granted a daily continuous rest of at least twelve hours duration between two consecutive working days. The daily rest in an undertaking operating on a seasonal basis may be of less than ten hours but of not more than twelve hours’ duration over a period of at least sixty consecutive days in the calendar year.
Sources: § 40-44 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651)
4. Compensatory Holidays / Rest Days
No provision could be identified in laws to require an employer to provide a compensatory rest day for working on a weekend rest day or public holiday.
5. Paid Vacation / Annual Leave
One other common area where the rights of employees are trampled on, is annual leave.
Though the labour laws clearly state that a worker is entitled to at least 15 working days fully paid annual leave, some employers deliberately do not grant it to their employees. This is common in cases where the individual is very vital to the running of the company, or a replacement will prove more expensive to the employer. But that's not an excuse.
Here is what the law says:
A worker is entitled to at least 15 working days fully paid annual leave, after completion of 12 months of continuous service. This continuity of service is not interrupted by a change of ownership or management, the worker just has to have worked for at least 200 days in the particular year to fulfill the requirement for continuous service, in case of irregular work throughout the year.
If a worker is absent from work with permission of their employer, this period is not considered as interruption. Public holidays and absence from work due to sickness certified by a medical practitioner, and pregnancy and confinement, do not affect the annual leave entitlement. Annual leave is fully paid leave and the leave pay includes basic pay including equivalent pay for in-kind benefit and excluding overtime payments.
A worker may be permitted to take their annual leave in two approximate equal parts. Every worker has the right to enjoy annual leave without any interruption however an employer, in cases of urgent necessity, may require a worker to interrupt his/her leave and return to work. However, the employer must compensate the interruption afterwards.
Annual leaves is independent of sick leave certified by a medical practitioner due to sickness occurring during the term of annual leave. On termination of the employment contract, the worker is entitled to annual leave in proportion to the period of service in the calendar year (except in the case of termination without notice by the employer). Any agreement to relinquish the right to annual leave or to forgo such leave is null and void.
Employers are required to keep a record showing the following particulars: the date of employment of each worker employed and the duration of the annual leave to which the worker is entitled; the dates on which the annual leave is taken by each worker; and the remuneration received by each worker in respect of the annual leave.
Sources: §20-32 of the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651)
6. Pay on Public Holidays
Workers are entitled to paid Festival (public and religious) holidays. Festival holidays are announced by Ghanaian Government at the start of calendar year (usually 13 in number).
The public holidays are regulated under the Public Holidays Law, 1989. These days are New Year’s Day (January 01), Independence Day (March 06), Good Friday (April 03, 2015), Easter Monday (April 06, 2015), May Day (May 01), Africa Unity Day (May 25), Republic Day (July 01), Eid-il-Fitr, Founders' Day (September 21), Eid-il-Adha, Farmers’ Day (December 04), Christmas Day (December 25) and Boxing Day (December 26). Muslims holidays vary from year to year, depending on the lunar movement. If a public holiday falls on a non-working day, the next working day would be appointed as a public holiday.
Sources: § 72 of the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651), Holidays Act, 2001 (Act 601)
7. Sick Leave
There is no clear provision in the Labour Act about paid sick leave and its length. It only says that sick leave certified by the medical practitioner is independent of annual leave.
Sources: § 22 & 24 of the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651)
There is no mention in the Labour Act about medical care however medical benefits are provided under the National Health Insurance Program.
Employers are required to pay the medical expenses in respect of occupational injury.
Source: Schedule II under regulation 19 of the National Health Insurance Regulations 2004
It is in the interest of employers to be concerned about the rights and wellbeing of their employees because a happy, well- respected employee is a highly productive employee.
According to Dr. Amponsah Tawiah there are many employees who are disgruntled but cannot leave their jobs, and are also afraid to push for their rights to be respected.
"This leads to a condition we describe as "presenteeism". This is when employees are only present at work because they have to be there, but are not willing to give their best because they feel disrespected and trodden on. It is in the best interest of employers to treat their employees in a way that is commensurate to the organisation's own world- class vision and ambitions. If you want to be a first- class international company, your quickest way there is to treat your employees in a world- class manner.