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Tourism players call for policy on flexible working schedule

A tourist takes a camel ride at Diani Beach Hotel in Kwale County. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Tourism stakeholders whose sector has been badly hit by effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have started deliberating on flexible working hours in a bid to speed recovery of the ailing sector.

During the just-concluded 18th edition of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers  Annual Tourism Symposium at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort, hoteliers called for Kenyan labour laws to be reworked so as to allow for an efficient flexi-working module.

Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, State Department for Labour, Chief Administrative Secretary, Musyoka Kalla said the module is working in other countries.

"We even have students studying abroad and are in gainful employment when not in class. Back home, we need to relook at our own labour laws so that workers can have flexible working hours and also allowed to work for more than one employer. There has to be a number of real-time adjustments," Kalla said.

He remained optimistic that once we have a legal framework in place to guide on flexi hours and allowing workers to work for more than one employer, the 24-hour economy policy will gain momentum.

Kalla said the next administration should come up with a policy on flexi hours and enabling legislation and ensure that it is operational.

He added that the Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for all humanity. The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, in March 2020 set aside Sh500 million for the country’s post coronavirus recovery plan.

Tourists on a game drive a Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Isiolo. [David Gichuru, Standard]

"Desperate times call for desperate measures. As a government, we did our best to help cushion the Kenyan worker against massive layoffs which had become the norm with Covid disruptions. Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) were frozen at the height of the pandemic to help save and maintain people at work," the CAS said. 

KAHC Coast branch Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye said Covid-19 pandemic had severely affected a number of traditional tourism and hospitality activities and processes.

"Automation and dynamics in customer expectations make it necessary to adjust the work environment as we knew it. In fact, we are late in amending our labour laws to reflect this new reality. All those that need staff on-site or physical presence will soon be obsolete as technology is embraced and smart tourism concept applied," Dr Ikwaye said.

He added that in essence, this means that a marketing executive can serve a number of facilities just like an auditor does for several firms.

Ikwaye said that it will soon be possible for one to work in hotel as a front office staff in the morning and later in the day take up the same role in a bank.

"These new dynamics are here with us and we must embrace them or else the disruptions will be difficult to adjust to," he stated.

But chairman of Maritime Wages Council Mwinyi Jahazi says that for flexi-working hours to be compatible, there is need to address among other things insecurity and reliable transport.