Employers in Kenya will no longer be able to force older workers to retire if a new Bill passes.

The Employment Act (Amendment) Bill 2019 amends the existing Employment Act 2007 to add new strands of discrimination. Under the revised legislation, age will be expressly stated as a protected characteristic.

Discrimination on grounds of dress, conscience (belief), language and place of birth will also be prohibited.

Equalities law in Kenya

The Employment Act 2007 is the main piece of legislation in Kenya covering discrimination and the workplace. Currently, “age” is not mentioned as a characteristic that is protected from discrimination.

However, the Constitution of Kenya says that “The state shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including […] age […].”

The Labour ministry says the review of the Employment Act 2007 and the draft Bill that has been published aim to align it with the protection provided by the Constitution, as well as a more general updating due to trends in labour laws.

Retirement in Kenya

If passed, the Bill will radically change retirement in Kenya.

The retirement age for government workers is currently set at 60 and is set out in regulations to the Public Service Act. Because this age is set out in legislation, the draft Bill is unlikely to affect this.

There could be a much bigger impact in the private sector. Private sector employers impose retirement ages according to their policies. The draft Bill will make it very difficult for employers to retire (or fail to hire) an employee on the basis of their age.