Rwanda: Mixed Reactions Trail Changes to Working Hours

For the private sector that has a diverse approach to performance, the implementation of new working hours has attracted mixed reactions among players.

The Office of the Prime Minister, on November 11, last year, issued a communiqué of cabinet resolutions, which, among other things, stated that the official working hours will be eight, from 9:00a.m to 5:00p.m , excluding a one-hour lunch break.

The changes that took effect on January 4, are designed to promote quality education as well as improve both workplace productivity and family wellbeing.

The General Secretary of Rwanda Workers’ Trade Union Confederation (CESTRAR), Africain Biraboneye, has welcomed the development saying that employees are more productive when they work not more than eight hours a day.

“For essential works, there needs to be a dialogue between employers and employees for flexibility in working hours while maintaining the necessary productivity. This harnesses the spirit of holding staff as partners rather than tools,” he notes.

Jerome Bizimana, CEO of Kinazi Cassava Plant, said the changes in working hours do not affect a factory that operates 24/7 because employees work in shifts as usual and in case one works overtime, they get their due payment.

However, for businesspeople such as Emmanuel Tuyishime, Founder of Temaco Builders, the new directive presents a business opportunity where employees can use the adjusted morning hour to stop by and place their orders before heading to offices.

This means that Tuyishime’s business has to open before 8a.m.

“The implementation depends on the type of business one is into. To shift to these new working hours, it would require us to assess the implication and adjust accordingly but for the moment, it is hard for us to start at 9 am,” Tuyishime says.

Diane Karengera, Head of Human Resources at ITM Africa Ltd, a human resource firm based in Rwanda, says that anything that puts the wellbeing of employees first is positive and welcome.

However, she finds that the one hour from 8:00 am and 9:00 am is a bit “confusing” because “who is going to open their laptops when they have kids to prepare for school or while they commute to their workplaces?”

She suggests that if the government wants parents to spend more time with their families or in other social activities, then they should be given the ability to choose the suitable time for such bonding moments.

“Some people would want to have an extra lunch time or leave office early to work remotely in the evening for that one hour, or have it otherwise.”

Moreover, Karengera adds that the communique lacked crucial details on the implementation of the working hours and different clauses that would guide companies to draft new job contracts with consideration of the different realities in each sector.

Robert Bafakulera, a businessman and Chairman of the Private Sector Federation (PSF), says that the difference is yet to be assessed but all should be well given that regulators such as the Rwanda Revenue Authority, Food and Drugs Authority, Customs offices, and other stakeholders continue to provide essential services.

He notes that the important thing is for employees and employers to focus on making good use of the instated hours in increasing productivity.

The Cabinet directive aims at reducing the working hours to 40 and labour rights activists’ have called for “urgent amendment” of the existing labour law which states that maximum working hours are 45 a week.

According to the International Labour Organization, global standard working hours are eight per day and 48 per week, with some exceptions.

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