What category of leave is one entitled to under laws of Ghana?
Dear Mirror Lawyer, What is the category of leave one is entitled to under the laws of Ghana and why is it necessary to provide for this time off?
Thomas Sefiamor, Tema
Dear Thomas, Leave is provided for in the Labour Laws and terms and conditions of employment negotiated between the employer and employee.
Taking time off or what is known in popular parlance as leave is vital to promote good physical and mental health in the workplace and will improve employees work-life balance, productivity, will help teams solve problems, think creatively and reduce absenteeism.
It also allows the worker to take time to rest and re-energise which can result in stress reduction and improve mood, benefiting staff morale. Employees who take regular annual leave holidays can perform more efficiently and have higher motivation compared to those who do not.
The biggest risk in staff not taking their annual leave is that they burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
Employee burnout can prompt a multitude of problems in the workplace, resulting in a lack of engagement, drop in efficiency, increased absenteeism and more mistakes at work.
In Ghana, the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) makes provision for different categories of leave a worker can enjoy.
The first is the annual leave with full pay. This is an entitlement for every worker to be taken annually. The period ranges between 15 working days to 40 working days depending on the status and position of the worker in the establishment. Every worker is entitled to enjoy an unbroken period of leave but an employer, in cases of urgent necessity, may require a worker to interrupt his or her leave and return to work.
Where a worker is required by the employer to interrupt his or her leave, the worker shall not forfeit the right to the remainder of the leave but shall take the leave anytime thereafter. A worker may also be permitted to take his or her annual leave in two approximate equal parts.
In the past, workers could sell off their leave entitlements for cash. Under the current Labour Act, this has been discontinued. Any agreement between an employer and worker to sell off, relinquish the entitlement to annual leave or to forgo such leave is void.
Another category is sick leave. This is not part of the annual leave. It is a period of absence from work allowed owing to sickness, which is certified by a medical practitioner. Different institutions have periods within which such sick leave could be taken after which if the sickness persisted, they would be entitled to half pay or be discharged from employment on medical grounds.
There is also maternity leave. A woman worker, on production of a medical certificate issued by a medical practitioner or a midwife indicating the expected date of her confinement, is entitled to a period of maternity leave of at least 12 weeks in addition to any period of annual Leave she is entitled after her period of confinement.
Such a woman worker on maternity leave is entitled to be paid her full remuneration and other benefits which she is otherwise entitled.
The period of maternity leave may be extended for at least two additional weeks where the confinement is abnormal or where in the course of the same confinement two or more babies are born.
A nursing mother is entitled to interrupt her work for an hour during her working hours to nurse her baby and shall be treated as working hours and paid for accordingly. An employer shall not dismiss a woman worker because of her absence from work on maternity leave.
Compassionate or casual leave is another category which is not specifically provided in the Act but permitted under the Collective Bargaining Agreement or conditions of service negotiated between the employer and the employee pursuant to the Act. This is a time away from work permitted by the employer for personal reasons such as crisis, bereavement or illness of a close relative.
Study leave is a period of time agreed with the employer for the employee to undertake agreed education, training and development activities relevant to his or her schedule or area of expertise in an institution.
Continuous Professional Development is now mandatory in many professional bodies and businesses to enable the worker to achieve agreed business objectives. Study leave may be granted with or without pay. If the leave is granted with pay, the worker may be bonded to serve the institution for a period of time before he or she can leave the organisation otherwise a penalty would be imposed on the person.
Other businesses have found creative ways of crafting various categories of leave of absence to make life flexible for the employee. This is usually negotiated with management and accepted as lawful provisions within the conditions of service.