Senate rejects proposal to increase public holidays in Kenya

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Senate rejects proposal to increase public holidays in Kenya

Kenyans’ aspirations for an extension of the current number of public holidays to either the day before or after have been thwarted, as a Senate committee dismissed a proposal by Kiambu Senator Paul Karungo Wa Thang’wa.

Thang’wa’s amendment suggested extending public holidays to the preceding day if the holiday falls on a Tuesday or the following day if it falls on a Thursday.

His rationale was that this extension would afford employees more time to fully enjoy their vacations and attend to their physical and emotional well-being.

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Nevertheless, the Senate Committee, led by Baringo lawmaker William Cheptumo, turned down the amendment, expressing concerns that increasing the number of public holidays could have a detrimental impact on the country’s struggling economy.

The committee’s report, presented before the Senate recessed in November 2023, determined that the bill would not progress to the next phase of the parliamentary process, despite passing its First Reading on October 17, 2023.

The report stated, “The Bill has the potential to cause adverse effects on the country, its economy, and the rights of employers.”

“While it is important to consider the well-being of employees and work-life balance, this must be approached cautiously to ensure that the country’s economic growth is not compromised.”

The committee arrived at this conclusion following a public participation process, during which they received just one written memorandum from a stakeholder, namely the Council of County Governors.

Emphasizing that numerous businesses have set specific output targets, the committee pointed out that diminishing the number of working days for businesses due to extended public holidays might compel employers to shoulder the expense of salaries for days when work is not conducted.

Additionally, such a scenario could result in significant overtime compensation for employees working on public holidays.

“Majority of employees in Kenya are casual laborers who rely on daily wages to meet their needs; therefore, a reduction in their business working days because of the extension of public holidays on weekdays will hinder their ability to meet the basic needs for themselves and their families,” the report noted.

“Public holidays also disrupt businesses by reducing working days and consequently reducing business output.”

Senator Karungo asserted that public holidays serve the purpose of allowing employees to take a break, spend quality time with friends and family, observe important events, or partake in cultural practices.

He also highlighted the association of public holidays with travel and tourism, suggesting that an extension could stimulate economic growth.

According to his perspective, prolonging public holidays might incentivize Kenyans to embark on more extended trips, exploring destinations farther from their residences, thereby benefiting the hospitality and tourism sectors.

Despite these arguments, the Senate committee’s rejection of the proposal signifies that the current number of public holidays in Kenya will remain unaltered, without any extension to either the preceding or following day.

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Senate rejects proposal to increase public holidays in Kenya

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