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The controversies surrounding the Employee Weekly day of rest

18 Nov 2013 at 05:50hrs | Views
The word tolerance is more prevalent in political circles in Zimbabwe.The word was more commonly used by the Organ on Healing and Reconciliation in the Zimbabwean inclusive government which was formed after the 2008 violent elections. The organ was mandated to bring peace, unity and tolerance among the Zimbabwean rivalry political parties. However, it is lamentable that the word tolerance is rarely used in religious circles especially when it comes to work  religious tolerance.

As the author had pointed out in the above paragraph, work religious tolerance is less spoken of in Zimbabwe. Is it because Zimbabweans feel that there is no such thing as labour discrimination? It is the author's conviction that work place religious discrimination is rampant in Zimbabwe than political, tribal, gender or racial discrimination.

One of the hot topic in the Zimbabwean labour market is the issue of the Seventh-day Adventists and their Sabbath [Saturday] day of rest.Seventh-day Adventists and other faith groups such as Johanne Marange Apostles, Jews etcetera believe that Saturday is a Sabbath, a day which no work must be done. Such faith groups expect to be exempted from coming to work on Saturdays by their employers.

Whilst I would like to commend some employers who are sensitive and open minded to their employee's religious convictions, some employers are arrogant and feel that religious issues must not be brought at workplaces. Some employers feel Sabbath keepers must not be treated in any special way. We have seen a number of Sabbath keepers ordered to come to work on Saturdays or risk job dismissal, and a number had lost their jobs or a number have been forced to compromise to the dictates of their employers.

Is it a right for an employee to be given a weekly rest day? Oh yes.

The Internation Labour Organisation held the following conventions focusing on the weekly worker's day of rest: ILO Conventions 14[1921] 47[1935] and 106[1957]. The above conventions recommended that employees must enjoy a rest period of at least twenty-four consecutive hours in every 7 day period or a week. Our government had ratified the conventions which was finally included in the Zimbabwe labour act. The Labour Act's 14C says the weekly day of rest must be agreed by the employer and the employee, the employer cannot fix or decide the day of rest for the employee.

While the author of this article appreciates the positive move by our government to include the day of rest  conventions in our labour act, the author feel the act have some loose ends which need to be tied.

You will discover that the act only says the worker's weekly day of rest must be agreed between the employer and the employee.What if the parties fail to reach an agreement? The author feel the act must be more specific like what the State of Israel did in their related act named "Hours of Work and Rest Law, 5711-1951". The Israel act clearly stipulates that in the case of a Jew the weekly rest day is the Sabbath day[Saturday], and in case of a person other than a Jew the weekly rest day is the Sabbath day or Sunday or Friday, whichever is ordinarily observed by him as his weekly day of rest. The author of this article believes the Israeli weekly rest day act is more specific than our own labour act on the same subject and argue our government to copy the Israeli government act.

Employers must know that their employees are not machines but human beings who subscribe to cultural and religious beliefs.Employers must take note that the weekly rest day is not a privilege to the employee but an employee's right. It is well known that certain employers had resolved not to employ Sabbath keepers because they are not prepared to give such employees a day off on Saturdays. The author remembers attending an interview at the UZ library between 2009 and 2010. The interviwee was asked by one of the panelists if really he was a Seventh-day Adventist as indicated on his application letter. The interviewee confirmed positive and the result was a regret.

Tolerance workshops must be organised for Zimbabwean employers also not for politicians only. Employers must be taught to create the same "open" culture within their business.Tolerance means going out an extra-mile so as to accommodate one's employee's beliefs and religion.

It is the job of the employer to promote religious tolerance at their workplaces. It is the job of employers, managers, supervisor, school heads etc to make sure that their employees understand and tolerate various religious groups. Employers must not stop at being an equal opportunity employer but must go an extra mile and listen to each every employee's religious concerns.

Etiwel Mutero is a religious liberty activist.You can contact Etiwel on 0773614293 or on email

Source - Etiwel Mutero
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