WORK LIFE BALANCE FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.

In 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the job market was hit with the Great Resignation Crisis around the world. While companies in Africa were giving voluntary retirement options to cut costs before the pandemic, people were calling it quits when they were needed the most. Most said that the pandemic made them re evaluate themselves to find a healthy balance of work and other things that are more fulfilling other than paying bills. The situation became so dire that company executives were literally begging some of its workers to stay on the job with more money and flexible working terms, and that’s how working from home is still practiced even today after Covid subsided and the rules relaxed.

One of the new working terms introduced was the option to have mothers come with the children to work and the company providing teachers who would help these children with their school work while their mothers are working. Before then, only lactating mothers were allowed to come with their children and it had to take Parliamentary intervention in Kenya for companies to finally agree to have safe spaces in the company premises where mothers could safely and comfortably breastfeed their children. Some institutions such as the Kenyatta University have a day care centre where staff members can leave their children at the hands of professional care givers so that they can have the peace of mind in the office and work to their level best. For men, companies are now allowing them time to have time off with their children especially if it’s a co-parenting situation where both parents don’t live together. It is also permissible that fathers can bring their children in the workplace to play with them or just have the children hang around their dads if they so wish. Recently, the Teachers Service Commission added paternity days for Kenyan teachers for them to provide emotional support to their spouses after delivery.

Productivity among PWDs is affected by unavoidable factors that vary due to the nature of disability at hand. For example, people on wheelchairs may become slow as the day wears on due to the effects of sitting down for long. While some organizations allow them to leave early, it may not sit well with other colleagues who may view it as favouritism. Proper disability awareness needs to be done before such a move is introduced.

Debate is still ongoing about a four-day work week with one company having proposed a two shifted approach to make it work. One team working Monday to Thursday and another team Tuesday to Friday. A presidential candidate in Kenya has also outlined a four-day work week in his manifesto should he be elected to power. With companies taking out insurance health covers for its employees, how about introducing a four-day work week and the fifth day being for disability related undertakings such as therapy? Here, the PWD is able to take care of his or her health and being on top career wise while at it. This eliminates the stress PWDs have about the cost of therapy and having to write letters to seek days off for therapy. It also makes business sense too because it will be a symbiotic relationship between the organization and the insurance company that will hire the therapist who will attend to the PWD. More to this is that it will increase insurance uptake in the country. The therapist can also be a psychologist to address work related stresses that may occur as a result of a disability, since mental health is largely ignored among PWDs. Of course, a boost to this would be a welfare group in the organization where PWDs can discuss life issues with colleagues and seek solutions while the non PWDs get to understand the PWDs better.  Team building does not have to be such a task. Like the late President  Kibaki used to say Fanyeni kazi na baadae mji-enjoy.  

By:

Murithi Ndiritu