What Can Seasonal Workers Do When Their Employment Ends?

Access to JusticeAugust 9, 20170 CommentsKituo Cha Sheria


Tourism and agriculture are two of the largest contributors to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Kenya. Yet, both industries are cyclical. Seasonal workers are brought in during tourist season or when it’s time to harvest the crops, and then, they are let go when demand slows down. What options are available to seasonal workers when their work is done?

The Employment Act of 2007

In 2007, Kenya’s Parliament enacted five labour laws: The Occupational Safety and Health Act, Work Injury Benefits Act, Labour Relations Act, Labour Institutions Act, and the Employment Act. Their aim was to improve the environment for workers, trade unions, and employees. They repealed and replaced the previous six core labour laws and brought them into conformity with the current demands and challenges of international labour standards and national development.

The Employment Act put a number of laws on the books that protected workers of all types. Unfortunately, Kenya does not currently have any provision in the law for unemployment benefits or insurance. This applies to workers of all types, including full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal, and so on.

The Potential for Unemployment Benefits Is There

In 2012, with the call for expansion of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), talk of introducing unemployment benefits came to the forefront. The NSSF is the public pension services provider that more than one million Kenyan workers pay into. Once contributors to the fund retire and reach a certain age threshold, they can start collecting on the pension.

When NSSF was discussing raising fees on its contributors, it announced that it intended to introduce unemployment benefits to members who lost their jobs. The reasoning behind potentially introducing the payments was to help members cover expenses – including utility bills, food, and rent – in the event that they unexpectedly lost their job. Numbers announced at the time included paying Sh10,000 per month for half a year.

At the time, officials believed the unemployment benefits bill would be introduced by 2015. However, as of today, we are still waiting for unemployment benefits. Seasonal workers were not mentioned at all at the time of the chatter about unemployment, so it remains unclear whether this would be a viable option for them.

Trade Unions May Be the Best Bet Moving Forward

The question of whether seasonal workers should receive unemployment is a tough one since most of the employees go into the work knowing that it is temporary, and they are usually paid handsomely. If you are aseasonal worker, you should not expect unemployment insurance to help you during the offseason. Instead, you might consider being a serial seasonal worker with a different job for each season.

In the meantime, with the Labour Relations Act, it is possible for trade unions to offer their members unemployment benefits. Currently, this is not a common practice, and again, it is unlikely it would benefitseasonal workers. Yet, unions in other countries have used dues and other collections to help members through a rough patch caused by the loss of work.

There Are Some Benefits Available

While there may be no unemployment benefits available for the near future, you do have specific rights that you are guaranteed thanks to Kenya’s labour laws. Specifically, the Employment Act of 2007 sets down the rules for Terminal Benefits. These are the final entitlements a worker is to receive upon termination of their employment contract (which are required for any jobs longer than three months).

Once your employment contract is terminated, you are entitled to the following:

  • ·         Severance pay (if applicable)
  • ·         Remuneration for work done prior to termination
  • ·         Certificate of Service
  • ·         Any notice pay due
  • ·         Leave pay due to the worker that had not yet been used

According to the Employment Act, severance pay is only due to an employee if their job is rendered redundant. This is when the employer terminates your employment involuntarily because your job is considered superfluous. You cannot get severance pay if you quit or if you engaged in misconduct. If you do qualify for severance pay, you get the equivalent of fifteen days of basic wages for every year of employment you have completed.


Writing Jackie.

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