A lawyer has taken up the case of a man who claims to have been sacked from a restaurant in Nairobi because the management was not convinced that his wife had a stillbirth.
Lawyer Sarah Mungai on Saturday promised to go “full-force” ahead with the case where Maxwell Mwangi says he was verbally fired from Amaica the Restaurant after taking three days off to attend to his wife.
The wife had had a caesarean delivery which, sadly, brought forth a dead baby.
The lawyer told the Sunday Nation that she received instructions on Friday and she will start acting from Monday.
Ms Mungai said the first step will be to write a demand letter to the Amaica management “so that we can at least explore an out-of-court settlement before we proceed to court”.
“What is interesting about Mr Mwangi’s case is that he had reported that he was going to be away, two weeks in advance. And that is his right. Paternity leave is a right,” said Ms Mungai.
The restaurant’s CEO Pamela Muyeshi faulted the “inaccurate” reports circulating about the situation, likening the onslaught against her business to mob justice. The story was first published online by Sema Ukweli Kenya, a lobby group headed by activist Boniface Mwangi.
Said Ms Muyeshi: “The truth will come out, I believe. But I don’t know how many people would bother to find out the truth.”
On Saturday, Muyeshi had doubts on whether a man can be granted paternity leave if the child in question is born dead.
“There are conditions (for paternity leave), and even the baby has to be alive for the man to qualify for it if I’m not wrong. You know, I’m not a labour expert, so I might not be accurate on that. But I want to believe those are the conditions,” she said.
Mr Mwangi’s explanation makes it apparent that he worked under terms that could not let him leave his workplace on Thursday May 2 when his wife called to report that she was in labour. All he could do was send her cash to take a taxi to hospital.
He alleges that the restaurant’s CEO did not believe his narrative, and that he was verbally told by his manager to stop working from May 8.
“For her, this whole thing was fake,” Mr Mwangi says in a widely-circulated video.
Today, Kenyans join other countries in marking Father’s Day, where the role of the male parent in society will be celebrated.
Paternity leave is one of the issues around fatherhood that employers are yet to fully appreciate, 12 years after it was included in the Employment Act.
The hotels sector, where Mr Mwangi was employed, is no exception, according to Ms Jacqueline Wamai, the legal adviser at the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha).
In the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Kudheiha and the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers, male workers are entitled to a 14-day paternity leave.
Amaica, however, insists that Mr Mwangi — who is not a Kudheia member — was not sacked. In its statement on the matter, it said he had “absconded duty from May 8."
The restaurant’s CEO said Mr Mwangi had been deployed to work at their branch at the airport on that same May 8. “That is why he does not have a termination letter,” she said.
On Saturday, Mr Mwangi said he had not been contacted by his former employer since the story broke.
He noted that he had been facing a financial storm since his sudden dismissal.
“You’re grieving and at the same time you’re facing financial difficulties. It’s traumatising,” he said.