RENEW Strategies

The Rights of Women Employees Under the New Employment Law

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Tsegamlak Solomon
| December 3, 2019

Ethiopia has recently made changes to its employment law, which was in effect for the past 16 years. Proclamation No. 1056/2019, which repealed Proclamation No. 377/2003, came into effect on September 5, 2019. Though the new law has not significantly deviated from the previous one, it has made a notable change in terms of protecting the rights of women employees. These protections are outlined below.

Sexual Violence and Harassment

One of the most significant changes is the definition given to ‘Sexual Violence and Harassment’. Surprisingly, the repealed labor proclamation did not define ‘Sexual Violence’ or ‘Harassment’, nor did it provide for any consequences for offenders. This had been a barrier to an employer’s ability to take measures against employees who are caught committing these offenses. Thankfully, the new Labor Proclamation defines ‘Sexual harassment’ as “…an act of persuading or convincing another person through utterance, signs or any other manner, to submit for sexual favor without his/her consent.” Similarly, ‘Sexual Violence’ is defined as “…an act of sexual harassment accompanied by force or an attempt thereof.” The new law doesn’t stop with just the definition, it also specifies the consequences associated with it:

  • An employer will be entitled to terminate an employee’s contract, who is caught committing the above act, without giving notice;
  • An employee who is subject to the above acts by his/her employer or managerial employee will be entitled to terminate his/her employment contract without notice. In addition, s/he will be entitled to a severance payment. The same applies if the act is committed by a co-worker and the employer fails to take measures, despite a report being made of the fact; and
  • In addition to the severance payment specified above, a victim of sexual harassment and violence will be entitled to compensation equal to three (3) months’ salary.

Reduction of the Workforce

The repealed proclamation had established a retainer arrangement for certain groups of employees during a reduction of the workforce by an employer. The new proclamation expanded the groups protected by this retainer arrangement to include new mothers whose babies are under four months old. This is in addition to expectant mothers, who were also covered under the repealed proclamation.

Maternity Leave
The repealed proclamation provided for thirty (30) consecutive days pre-natal and sixty (60) consecutive days post-natal leave for expectant mothers. The new proclamation has made adjustments to this. Under the new proclamation, the pre-natal leave remained the same, but the post-natal leave has been expanded to ninety (90) consecutive days.

Affirmative Action

Both the repealed and the current proclamation provide for non-discrimination of women employees against their male counterparts in all respects. However, the new proclamation goes beyond that and provides for affirmative action in order for female employees to be given priority if they score equal results with male employees while competing for employment, promotion or any other employment benefits.

Overall, the new labor proclamation did not make a significant change to the already existing labor laws, despite compiling what had been scattered through different amendments and court decisions. However, when it comes to the protection of the rights of women employees, it is considered a huge step forward from where it has been.

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