Promoting decent work practices through labour inspection in Kenya

Kenya's Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, through its entities the Directorate of Occupation Safety and Health (DOSH) and the Department of Labour (DoL), plays a pivotal role in institutionalizing international labour standards and promoting decent work practices.

Article | 12 June 2023

Kenya's Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, through its entities the Directorate of Occupation Safety and Health (DOSH) and the Department of Labour (DoL), plays a pivotal role in institutionalizing international labour standards and promoting decent work practices. As stakeholders within the ministry recognize the need for harmonization and digitization, they are working towards enhancing service provision and ensuring effective implementation of labour standards. Let's explore their perspectives on this transformative journey.

Harmonizing Roles and Processes:

DOSH, under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, focuses on occupational safety and health. Its primary objective is to prevent work-related accidents, injuries, and diseases by establishing and enforcing safety regulations in workplaces. DOSH plays a crucial role in promoting and maintaining safe working conditions for employees across various sectors. By enforcing International Labour Standards related to occupational safety and health, DOSH aims to protect workers from hazards and ensure their well-being on the job.

On the other hand, the Department of Labour (DoL) within the same ministry is responsible for labour administration and regulation. Its primary objective is to promote and protect the rights of workers while fostering harmonious employer-employee relationships. DoL plays a critical role in enforcing employment laws, including minimum wage regulations, working hours, and employment contracts. It also addresses disputes between employers and employees and provides support for resolving labour-related issues.

DOSH and DoL both perform crucial functions within the labour inspectorate but follow different workflows and procedures. This divergence creates inefficiencies and confusion. To address this, it is essential to establish two separate and accurately mapped labour inspection workflows that reflect the distinct mandates and actions of DOSH and DoL. By clearly defining roles, responsibilities, and processes for each department, harmonization can streamline operations and improve service delivery.

Embracing Digital Transformation:

Labour inspectors face significant time constraints due to manual processes, such as preparing reports and documents, which must be done in the office. By digitizing labour inspection processes, the time taken for investigations can be significantly reduced. Inspectors can generate necessary documents online, making inspections more efficient and enabling afflicted parties to lodge complaints through a system-generated process. Digitization facilitates seamless information flow, enhances accountability, and allows for effective tracking and tracing of case files.

Uncertainty surrounding the nature of labour cases, whether civil or criminal, often leads to a backlog of unresolved cases. Clear guidelines and consensus between prosecutors and labour officers are crucial to determine the appropriate actions and ensure timely resolution. Collaboration with relevant agencies, such as the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, is essential. By fostering information exchange and training, the labour inspectorate can effectively address case backlogs and expedite the resolution of labour disputes.

According to DOSHs, Digital transformation will revolutionize how they conduct inspections thus enabling them to generate documents online, track progress efficiently, and enhance information exchange among stakeholders. This will ultimately contribute to improved service provision and the timely resolution of labour disputes.

Collaboration with partner government agencies and organizations is key to enhancing the labour inspectorate's effectiveness. Establishing linkages with institutions like the Judicial Training Institute, Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association, and the National Police Service will promote information exchange and training opportunities. Additionally, standardizing enforcement and transactional processes will improve transparency, traceability, and oversight. Automated reporting and communication mechanisms will enhance information exchange between agencies and stakeholders, promoting efficient service provision.

The Role of the Electronic Case Management System (ECMS):

The ongoing project to develop an Electronic Case Management System (ECMS) for the labour inspectorate, in collaboration with All Hands in Kenya, a project by the International Labour Organization (ILO), is a significant step forward. The ECMS will provide a comprehensive platform to automate labour case management and streamline processes. By integrating workflows and supporting generic sub-processes, such as document preparation and court decision-making, the ECMS will enhance efficiency and effectiveness within the labour inspectorate.

The significance of the ongoing project to develop an Electronic Case Management System (ECMS) aligns with the Kenyan Government's digitization agenda. The president of the Republic of Kenya H.E. William Ruto in a national address shared that his government is in the process of digitizing 90% of its processes. The ECMS will therefore revolutionize how labour cases are managed. By automating processes and integrating workflows, it will enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability within the labour inspectorate.

As stakeholders within the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection in Kenya recognize the need for harmonization and digitization, they are working towards transforming the labour inspectorate to advance international labour standards and promote decent work practices. By harmonizing roles and processes, embracing digital tools, addressing case backlogs, building partnerships, and implementing the ECMS, DOSH and DoL can enhance their capabilities and ensure the efficient delivery of services. These measures will contribute to a more transparent, accountable, and responsive labour inspection system in Kenya, ultimately benefiting both workers and employers. By upholding International Labour Standards and fostering decent work practices, Kenya can create a fair and inclusive work environment that prioritizes the rights and well-being of its workforce.