Hire in Kenya

Here’s where you get started with human resources best practices and hiring in Kenya.

Ready to Hire? Get Started!

Last updated at June 17, 2022

Currency

Kenyan Shilling (KES)

Capital

Nairobi

Time Zone

GMT+3

Key Country Facts

Introduction

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in Eastern Africa. In 1963, Kenya’s independence was proclaimed and the Constitution adopted. Today, it is a presidential representative democratic republic with a multi-party system. Its Indian Ocean coast provided historically important ports by which goods from Arabian and Asian traders have entered the continent for many centuries.

Area

Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. It covers a total of 580,367 km2.

Climate

Kenya’s climate varies widely from its cold snow-capped mountain tops to temperate climates in western and rift valley counties, and dry arid to absolute deserts. The “long rains” season occurs from March/April to May/June. The “short rains” season occurs from October to November/December.

Culture

A motto of “Harambee” (Swahili: “Pulling together”) has been stressed by Kenya’s government since independence, even as the culture is made up of multiple traditions. Notable populations include the Swahili on the coast, several other Bantu communities in the central and western regions, and Nilotic communities in the northwest.

Religion

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. The majority of Kenyans are Christian (85.5%), of whom 53.9% are Protestant and 20.6% are Roman Catholic. Islam is the second largest religion, comprising 10.9% of the population. Indigenous beliefs are practiced by 0.7%, non-religious 0.7% and 0.13% are Hindus.

Official Language

The two official languages are English and Swahili, with English widely spoken in commerce, schooling, and government. Kenya’s various ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues within their own communities.

Kenya HR at a Glance

EMPLOYMENT LAW

The employment and labour relations legislative framework is relatively new. The statutes are just under a decade old, following the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010. These statutes have significantly changed labour law in certain aspects and greatly enhanced the rights of employees.

Employment relations in Kenya are regulated by a number of sources: constitutional rights, statutory rights and rights set by collective agreements and and individual labour contracts.

The statutory framework governing employment and labour relations in Kenya is set out in five main statutes, namely:

  • the Employment Act
  • the Labour Relations Act
  • the Labour Institutions Act
  • the Work Injury Benefits Act
  • the Occupational Health and Safety Act

EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT

An employment contract, which does not specify a fixed period of duration, is considered to be for an unlimited period of time, but can be terminated by notice of either party. However, in the organized sector collective agreements which give workers tenure limit the employers’ ability to discharge and end the employment contract.

Other types of contracts:

  • Casual employment
  • Piecework employment
  • Apprenticeship contracts

In Kenya both oral and written contracts are recognised. A contract for a period of more than three months should be in writing. When a contract is written, there are basic requirements prescribed, such as the inclusion of:

  • name and age of the employee
  • permanent address of the employee
  • name of the employer
  • job description
  • date of commencement of the employment
  • duration of the contract, and place and hours of work
  • remuneration and frequency of payment
  • leave entitlement

These mandatory particulars should be agreed upon not later than two months after commencement of employment.

Contract Terms

An ‘employee’ is defined as a person employed for wages or a salary and includes an apprentice and indentured learner. A ‘contract of service’ is an agreement – whether oral or in writing, expressed or implied – to employ or to serve as an employee for a period of time and includes a contract of apprenticeship and indentured learnership.

it is a legal requirement that certain contracts of service be made in writing. These are contracts:

  • For a continuous period of 6 months
  • Which are not continuous, but for which the periods still add up to six months
  • In which the task to be performed may last for six months

Where a contract is in writing, it must carry a signature or a fingerprint of the employee showing that she or he has agreed to its terms. There must also be a witness who is not the employer. It is the duty of the employer to make sure that the contract is written when this is required by the law.

It is possible to adopt flexible work arrangements between the employer and the employee. The work schedule can be structured to fit in this flexible time arrangements. With the COVID-19 pandemic flexible and agile work arrangements have been embraced by majority of workplaces.

Pre-Employment Checks

Employers can request for background checks for:

1. Criminal records – a certificate of good conduct can be requested from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations

2. Medical history – employers can ask potential employees to undergo medical tests, with the consent of the employees

3. Drug screening – if it is relevant to the job in question

4. Immigration status

Probation Period/ Trial Period

A probationary period shall not be more than six months but it may be extended for a further period of not more than six months with the agreement of the employee.

During the probationary period, either party may terminate the contract by giving at least seven days’ notice, or of seven days’ wages in lieu of notice.

Working Hours

The maximum working hours for employees is forty-eight hours per week.

Overtime

Overtime is remunerated at the minimum rate of 150% of the normal hourly rate if the overtime is on the normal working days, and at 200% of the hourly rate if the overtime is on gazetted public holidays.

Management employees are not usually entitled to overtime and their contracts will have such provisions.

Timesheets

Employment records ought to be kept for a minimum period of five years after the termination of the employment.

Bonus

Bonuses and the 13th month salary are not mandatory. These can be included in contracts or collective bargaining agreements, but is entirely up to employer and employee to negotiate.

Termination

Termination of employment has to be for just cause, or valid and fair reasons, for example, if it is related to the employee’s conduct, capacity, and compatibility or based on the operational requirements of the employer. An employee has the right to be heard before termination of employment on account of misconduct, poor performance and incapacity.

Different procedures are applicable depending on the grounds and mode of termination.

For termination on account of poor performance, misconduct or incapacity, there is a mandatory procedure as follows:

  • to explain the reasons the employer is considering terminating the employment
  • giving an opportunity to an employee to be heard before effecting the termination, where the employee is entitled to have a fellow employee or union representative present during the show-cause hearing.

For termination due to poor performance, an employer should have a structured system of reviewing an employee’s performance and allowing the employee to improve over a reasonable period of time, before a decision for termination is made. A period of two to three months is considered reasonable period to place a poor performing employee on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

For termination for illness or incapacity, there are two key considerations:

  • An employer make effort to accommodate a sick or ailing employee by offering alternative work including reassignment to light duties or modifying the working environment, before termination on medical grounds.
  • Employers must exercise due care and sensitivity in the process of termination for incapacity or sickness.

For redundancies, it is required for 2 notices to be issued:

  • Notice of intended termination due to redundancy to the affected employees or a union where applicable, at least one month prior to the date of intended redundancy. Consultations are required to be carried out in this period.
  • Notice to the labour officer at least one month prior to the date of intended redundancy.

Payment in lieu of notice – this is payable at the end of the 30 days’ notice of intended redundancy. The employee can alternatively serve notice instead of being paid in lieu.

Mutual separation/termination agreements are permissible in Kenya. There are no statutory provisions governing such agreements and so what applies are the common law principles of what constitutes a valid and enforceable contract. Mutual separation agreements usually have provisions whereby the employee agrees to waive, release or discharge the employer from any liability arising from the separation in consideration of the employee receiving a separation package.

There is no specific protection against dismissal for particular categories of employees, e.g. pregnant employees, employees on maternity leave or termination on account of illness/incapacity. However, employers would be at risk of being accused of discrimination, which is prohibited in the statues and in the Constitution, and thus are cautious in this respect.

Notice Period

Notice periods are determined by the frequency of wage payments:

  • Daily – contract can be terminated at the close of the day without notice to either party.
  • At intervals of one or two weeks – contract can be terminated with a week’s notice given in writing
  • At intervals of one month or more – contract can be terminated by giving 28 days notice in writing

The law is not one sided. In the case that an employee quits without notice, they are to compensate the employer for the duration that they should have served notice as well.

Redundancy/ Severance Pay

Severance pay in Kenya, is equivalent to 15 days basic wages for each completed year of employment.

Gratuity or service pay is the amount of money paid to an employee by an employer, whose contract of service to pay wages periodically at intervals of one month or exceeding one month, has been terminated. It is provided under the Employment Act in Kenya to an employee who is not a member of a pension fund or NSSF, as a benefit after termination of their employment. This can be a contractual provision or as a result of a statutory obligation.

Final pay depends on the mode of termination. An employee whose employment is terminated by payment in lieu of notice is entitled to that payment in addition to salary earned up to the date of termination, as well as pay for accrued leave not taken.

An employee summarily dismissed from employment is entitled to salary earned up to the date of dismissal and any accrued leave not taken.

Post-Termination Restraints/ Restrictive Covenants

The general legal position is that restrictive covenants are not enforceable. They can be enforced if they are held to be reasonable, but the courts are generally reluctant to enforce such clauses.

Some of the main reasons given for this reluctance is the weak position of the employee in terms of bargaining and the compulsion that may exist on an employee to take employment in order to earn a living.

Fixed-Term Contracts

If an employment contract specifies a fixed period of employment, the contractual relationship is automatically terminated at the end of this period, without being considered a resignation or a dismissal. There are no limits on how many times a fixed term contract can be renewed.

Employees on fixed term contracts enjoy all the rights of an employee working on permanent terms, except those that are excluded explicitly (such as entitlement to pensions) or by the nature of a short-term assignment (such as annual leave).

Tax and Social Security

Personal Income Tax

If an employment contract specifies a fixed period of employment, the contractual relationship is automatically terminated at the end of this period, without being considered a resignation or a dismissal. There are no limits on how many times a fixed term contract can be renewed.

Employees on fixed term contracts enjoy all the rights of an employee working on permanent terms, except those that are excluded explicitly (such as entitlement to pensions) or by the nature of a short-term assignment (such as annual leave).

Monthly Taxable Pay (KES) Annual Taxable Pay (KES) Tax Rate (%)
Up to 24,000 Up to 288,000 10.0
24,001 – 32,333 288,001 – 388,000 25.0
Above 32,333 Above 388,000 30.0

Social Security

The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) is the largest social security scheme covering almost all of the formal labour force. NSSF is a state-administered provident fund though the government ensures that every worker is provided with minimum social security protection. All employers have to register with the fund and remit statutory contributions on a monthly basis.

Other schemes include the Retirement Benefits scheme, the Retirement Benefits (Amendment in 1998) scheme, the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), the Pensions scheme and the Pensions (Increase) scheme.

The employer and employee each contribute 6% of pensionable pay to NSSF.

WIBA (Workman compensation under the Work Injury Benefits ACT) – Every employer must obtain and maintain an insurance policy with a ministry-approved insurer. An employee should be insured for WIBA immediately upon commencement of contract of employment.

The above rates serve as a broad guideline. Actual rates charged will differ.

Employees

Salary Payment

Salary should be paid in Kenyan currency to the employee or to an authorised person.

Employers must provide payment for work done before or on the agreed pay day. The payment made is usually calculated hourly, daily, weekly and monthly depending on the type of contract signed.

Payslip

An employer is required to give to an employee an itemised payslip before payment of wages or salary containing remuneration for work and amounts that have been deducted in terms of taxes, insurance, NSSF requirements or due to any damages.

Electronic payslips are acceptable.

Annual Leave

An employee shall be entitled to a minimum of 21 days of paid leave per year after 12 consecutive months of service.

Sick Leave

An employee is entitled to full paid sick leave after a period of two consecutive months of service.

The Employment Act provides the minimum period of entitlement as seven days with full pay and seven days with half-pay for every twelve months. The employee is required to produce a certificate of incapacity to work signed by a duly qualified medical practitioner.

Maternity & Parental Leave

Maternity Leave

A female employee shall be entitled to 3 months maternity leave with full pay. On expiry of a female employee’s maternity leave, the female employee shall have the right to return to the job which she held immediately prior to her maternity leave or to a reasonably suitable job on terms and conditions not less favorable than those which would have applied had she not been on maternity leave.

The employee must give a minimum 7 days’ notice in writing of her intention to proceed on maternity leave on a specific date and to return to work thereafter. The employee may be required to produce a certificate from a medical practitioner to proof delivery.

A female employee shall be entitled to full pay during maternity leave. Additionally the employee shall not lose her annual leave entitlement.

Paternity Leave

A male employee whose official wife has delivered a baby shall be entitled to paternity leave with full pay. The employee shall be entitled to fourteen calendar days paternity leave.

Adoption Leave

Prospective adoptive parents (employees) are entitled to pre-adoptive leave of one month with full pay.

Compassionate & Bereavement Leave

Compassionate leave allows an employee to attend to death, accidents or sickness concerning relatives and friends. The number of days taken will be deducted from the annual leave entitlement for the year.

Public Holidays

Kenya has 11 public holidays. Where any of these holidays fall on a Sunday, the next working day will be a holiday.

Benefits to the Employee in Kenya

Statutory Benefits

Pension

A person is eligible for retirement pension on attaining the pensionable age (of 60 years) or attaining the age of 50 years in case of opting for early retirement.

Dependents’/Survivors’ Benefit

A survivors’ pension is paid to the dependents if a member dies before the pensionable age and was contributing to the Pension Fund at the time of his death and at least 36 monthly contributions had been made by the member immediately before the date of death.

Invalidity Benefit

A member is entitled to invalidity pension if he/she suffers physical or mental disability of a permanent nature as certified by a medical board established under the Act and has made at least 36 monthly contributions immediately preceding the date of invalidity.

Visas and Foreign Workers

General Information

A foreign employee can only work in Kenya with a valid work permit or pass issued by the Department of Immigration.

There are several classes of work permits issued depending on the nature of the work foreigners are engaged in.

The most relevant class for foreign workers is Class D which is issued to foreign workers who have been offered employment by a specific employer, the government of Kenya, an organ of the United Nations or any other agency approved by the Department of Immigration. To acquire this permit, foreign workers must show that they possess skills or qualifications that are not available in Kenya.

Work permits are usually valid for 2 years with the option to renew for another 2 years.

These are the other classes, and the requirements for each class vary.

  • Class A: For prospecting for minerals or mining
  • Class B: Agriculture and animal husbandry (KEP/B)
  • Class C: Prescribed profession (KEP/C)
  • Class D: Employment (KEP/D)
  • Class F: Specific manufacturing(KEP/F)
  • Class G: Specific trade, business or consultancy (KEP/G)
  • Class I: Approved religious or charitable activities (KEP/I)
  • Class K: Ordinary residents(KEP/K)
  • Class M: Refugees (KEP/M)
  • Special Pass: For individuals who would like to conduct any business, trade, or profession, or who are looking to apply for another permit when in Kenya. This visa is valid for up to 90 days.

Public Holidays in 2022

S.No Occasion Date
1. New Year’s Day January 1st
2. Good Friday April 15th
3. Easter Monday April 18th
4. Labour Day May 1st
5. Madaraka Day June 1st
6. Eid al- Fitr (end of Ramadan, exact day varies) May 3rd
7. Moi Day October 10th
8. Mashujaa Day, formerly Kenyatta Day October 20th
9. Jamhuri Day December 12th
10. Christmas Day December 25th
11. Boxing Day December 26th

Hire New Talent in Kenya

Our international hiring services let you hire anyone in any country without the investment needed to establish a local entity.

Get Started