The main legislation governing labour administration and employment matters in Ghana is the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651). Before the promulgation of Act 651, the Industrial Relations Act, 1960 (Act 299) and few other related labour regulations governed labour administration and industrial relations.
After almost two decades of promulgating the Act 651 to enhance industrial relations’ practices in the country, one major question that emerges is the fact that whether or not the provisions of the Labour Act are in tandem with the requirements of International Labour Standards (ILS). This provide the basis ascertaining if there has been any improvement and enhancement of labour administration within the last two (2) decades as compared to what existed before the Act 651 came into force.
The success stories of Act 651 cannot be overemphasized. Within the last seventeen (17) years, Act 651 has ensured improvement in the conditions of employment, negotiations between social partners in good faith, the establishment of the National Tripartite Committee and the establishment of the National Labour Commission, where disputing parties seek redress. It has given workers and employer’s associations the legal basis to make major contributions in policy making and implementation and demand equal participation in decision making to safeguard the interest of all parties. This include the formation of trade unions, the freedom of association granted by the 1992 Constitution and the use of social dialogue and tripartism to reach consensus among others. In 2013, the Labour Act was still being referred to as “Baby Document” that gave room for all actors to continue to explore the tenets of the Law.
Today, the Labour Act 651 can no longer be referred to as a ‘Baby Document’ as stakeholders call for a holistic review of the labour act, 2003 to conform with international best practices. It is important to recognize that gaps have not only been detected over the passage of time but also that new issues have emerged which require attention to consolidate the progress made. Ordinarily, the changing work climate occasioned by the future of work and the advent of COVID-19 give impetus for review of the Act 651.
As part of the processes for the review, a number of individuals and institutions have submitted their proposals to the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) for compilation. The MELR in collaboration with the European Union (EU) is leading the consultative process to share and discuss various inputs received. Among the issues that featured prominently in the discussions were the scope and coverage of Maternity Protection vis-à-vis International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 183. ILO C 183 provides at least 14 weeks of maternity leave whereas the current law guarantees at least 12 weeks maternity leave. The issue of child labour, unfair labour practices such as unfair termination of contract of employment, hours of work, and rights of domestic workers were also under discussions.
It is envisaged that all these concerns and inputs that are under discussions will lead to the validation and adoption of new ones to serve as the foundation of a new robust labour regime in the country.
The writer is a Staff of Information Service Department &
The Head of Public Relations of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations.