Research on working time and paid holidays in different countries in Africa by Liberat Bigirimana



  1. Comparison of weekly working hours in 4 countries in Eastern Africa
  2. Daily and Weekly working hours limits prescribed by ILO Conventions
  3. Some regional comparisons of weekly hours limits in Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda
  4. Paid vacation and public holidays in Burundi, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Uganda.
  5. Conclusion



The Working time regulation is one of the oldest concerns of labour legislation in the world. Early, in the 19th century, it was recognized that working excessive hours posed a real danger to workers’ health and their families. The working hours limits has been effective since the first ILO Convention, the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No. 1), which stipulates the principle of the eight-hour day and 48-hour week for the manufacturing sector[1]. After a very long period, other working time conventions were adopted such as the Hours of Work (Commerce and Offices) Convention, 1930 (No. 30) extended the 48-hour working week to workers in commerce and offices in 1930, and the Forty-Hour Week Convention, 1935 (No. 47)[2] establishing a new standard of the 40-hour working week to which countries should aspire. The reduction of working hours was one of the original objectives of employment regulation. A number of instruments including international labour standards have been used to help implement this regulatory framework in countries. National legislation is a second instrument of working-time regulation, and collective agreements are a third[3].

Provided that the Working Time Regulations determine hours limits, overtime work, rest periods, annual leave and public holidays, night work, part-time work...this small simple research report will focus on legislation regarding weekly working time and paid holidays. In the majority of countries, hours of work are governed by laws or regulations, sometimes supplemented by collective agreements. Then, as information on working regulation: hours of work; overtime work; rest periods; annual leave and public holidays,… is available( WageIndicator Collective Agreements Database), comparison between countries on national working time laws is possible through this database.

The first part of the research attempt to compare weekly working hours in 4 countries in Eastern Africa whereas the second part focuses on Paid vacation and public holidays in Burundi, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Uganda.

The last one contains the conclusion and also presents findings of the research report.


Comparison of weekly working hours in 4 countries in Eastern Africa

Working time is defined as hours during which the worker is at the disposal of her/his employer[4]. Thus, weekly working hours are taken as indicating the number of hours per week in excess of which any time worked is remunerated at overtime rates.

Globally, under the ILO Conventions, the standard working-time schedule is an eight hour day and a 48-hours week. According to this standard, labour legislation among the countries subject to comparison in this research sets weekly hours limits for work. In countries such as Burundi and Tanzania, for example, the legal weekly hour limit is 45hours, whereas Uganda has set the weekly hour limit at 48 hours. Only Kenya exceeds 49hours.

Daily and Weekly working hours limits prescribed by ILO Conventions

As a general rule in both Conventions, normal working hours should not exceed eight in the day and 48 in the week[5]. However, these limits of hours of work may be exceeded in some cases provided by the Conventions[6].


Some regional comparisons of weekly hours limits in Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda

 In Burundi, there are some exceptions to the national regulation on weekly hours limits which stipulates that the duration of work shall be normally of 8 hours per day and 45 hours per weeks[7].

The provision’s exception is that the 45 hour limit can be exceeded temporarily to respond to extraordinary workloads. The additional hours must be limited to 15 hours per week within a yearly limit of 150 hours.

Prior authorisation by the labour inspectorate is required. Requests for authorisation must include: the view of the workers concerned; the number of workers concerned; the number of hours and rest periods; and the reason that other methods of responding to the workload are not available (e.g. hiring extra workers).

In certain undertakings and occupations, a higher number of hours are established as equivalent to 45 hours due to the intermittent character of the work (e.g. guarding or surveillance staff (60 hours), and hotel and catering staff (54 or 60 hours, depending on the type of job)[8].

In Kenya, the normal working weeks shall consist of not more than 52 hours of work spread over six days of the week[9]. Exception:  The normal working week of a person employed on night work shall consist of not more than 60 hours of work per week[10].

 The labour regulation, in Tanzania, stipulates that the maximum number of ordinary days or hours that an employee may be permitted or required to work are 45 hours in any week[11]. In case of compressed workweeks, a written agreement may permit an employee to work up to 12 hours a day, without receiving overtime pay, provided that working time does not exceed 5 days and 45 hours and 10 hours overtime a week[12]

As for Uganda, the general limit of working hours in all establishments shall be forty eight hours per week[13]. However, some exceptions apply, such as: the employer and the employee may agree that the maximum working hours per week shall not be less than forty eight hours.

Subject to subsection (4) of the Employment Act, an employer and employee may agree that the normal working hours in a week shall be more than forty eight hours.

Hours of work shall not, except as provided in subsection (5), exceed ten hours per day or fifty six hours per week.

Where persons are employed in shifts, it shall be permissible to employ persons in excess of ten hours in any one day or 48 hours in any one week, where the average number of hours over a period of three weeks exceeds neither 10 hours per day nor 56 hours per week[14].


Paid vacations and public holidays in Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda and Madagascar.


Every worker is entitled, each year, to annual leave paid by the employer, in the following conditions:

A) Reference period giving the right to the paid annual leave:

The worker is entitled to the annual leave:

When, for the first time, he/she completes 12 months of service for the employer;

After that, every time he/she completes another 12 months of supplementary service, in the course of an employment contract[15].

The duration of the annual leave is 1 and 2/3 working days per month completed of service, that is to say 20 opened days for seniority of service of twelve calendar months.

The length of paid annual leave is increased of at least one additional working day of five years seniority of service for the employer[16].

The thirteen Paid public holidays and their dates are provided below:

a. 1 January (New Year)

b. 5 February (Reconciliation Day)

c. 6 April (Commemoration of the Assassination of President NTARYAMIRA)

d. Day of Ascension

e. 1 May (Labour Day)

f. 1 July (Independence Day)

g. 15 August (Assomption)

h. 13 October (Commemoration of the Assassination of Prince Louis RWAGASORE)

i. 21 October (Commemoration of the Assassination of President NDADAYE)

j. 1 November (All Saints Day)

k. 25 December (Christmas)

l. Aid-el-Fithr

m. Aid-el-Hadj



Annual leave and public holiday entitlements are set out in the Labour Proclamation 2003, the Civil Code 1960 and the Public Holidays and Rest Day Proclamation 1975.

According to articles 77, 78 of Labour Proclamation 2003, an employer is not required to grant a worker’s first period of annual leave until after one year of service. However, the entitlement to annual leave accrues throughout the year and, in the event that a worker’s service is terminated within the first year, his or her annual leave entitlements will be paid out on a pro-rata basis.

Globally, the annual leave entitlement is for at least 14 days in the first year, plus an additional day for each subsequent year of service. However, the number of days for paid annual leave for a worker with one year of service varies substantially between the public and private sectors(14, 16 and 18 days)[17].

Regarding public holidays, the rights and obligations concerning work and public holidays are set by the Labour Proclamation and the Public Holidays and Rest Day Proclamation (as amended). There are thirteen declared paid public holidays[18]:

(a) New Year’s Day and the Eritrean Reunion with Ethiopia Day - September 11;

(b) Popular Revolution Commemoration Day - September 12;

(c) Maskal (the Finding of the True Cross Day) - September 27;

(d) Id Adeha (Arefa) - the first day;

(e) Christmas Day - January 7 (subject to variation in calendar);

(f) Epiphany - January 19;

(g) Mawlid (Birth Day of Mohammed the Prophet);

(h) Victory of Adwa Commemoration Day - March 1;

(i) Victory Day - May 5;

(j) Good Friday;

(k) Easter;

(l) International Workingmen’s Day - May 1;

(m) Id Alfetir



Workers entitled to annual paid leave are those:

a) who have performed continuous service for their employer for a minimum period of six months;

b) who normally work under a contract of service for sixteen hours a week or more[19]. As it has been discussed previously, days for paid annual leave vary from a country to another, and for the Uganda, there are 21, 28 and 30.



According to article 88 of Labour Code, right to annual leave starts after 12 months of work. Unless there are more favourable conditions established in a collective agreement or individual labour contract, the worker is entitled to leave paid by the employer, at 2,5 days per month, that is to say 30days.

Exception: Collective or individual agreements may grant more favourable annual leave conditions than provided for by law[20].

Concerning public holidays, there are thirteen and are paid[21]:

a) 1 January New Year’s Day.

b) 8 March International Womens`Day.

c) Easter Sunday

d) Easter Monday.

e) 29 March Commemoration of the 1947 Rebellion.

f) 1 May Labour Day.

g) Ascension Day.

h) Pentecoste

i) Monday of Pentecoste

j) 26 June Independence Day.

k) Assumption Day.

l) 1 November All Saints’ Day.

m) 25 December Christmas Day.


This small simple research report of some aspects of working time and paid holidays permitted to ascertain the length of weekly working hours for workers in East Africa’s countries such as Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

The methodology used was simple provided that all informations needed were available on WageIndicator Collective Agreements Database, and of course, we used informations on national regulations not available in Wageindicator database. The research did not cover all the concepts of working time. Comparison of results shows there is a difference in laws or regulations at the national level. Most of countries concerned in this research comply with the weekly working hours limits as prescribed by the ILO Conventions. But there are also countries where hours of work limit lower than 48hours have been established. 

As for paid holidays, results showed that three countries of four in this report have legislation providing 20 working days of leave or more while Ethiopia grants a maximum of 18days of paid annual leave.

Globally, we found out that in a majority of countries in Eastern Africa the competent authorities deal with the regulation of working hours, including paid holidays through the adoption of laws or regulations. Nevertheless, in several cases, hours of work are regulated not by laws or regulations, but solely by collective agreements, individual agreements between employers and employees.


[1] Working Conditions Laws Database. ILO, Geneva. Available at:

[2] Idem

[3] Working time in the twenty-first century: Discussion report for the Tripartite Meeting of Experts on Working-time Arrangements 2011, 17–21 October 2011/International Labour Office, Geneva, ILO, 2011, p.18, No 38.

[4] Burundi Labour Code, article 112

[5] Article 2 of Convention No. 1(Convention limiting the hours of work in industrial undertakings to eight in the day and forty-eight in the week); Article 3 of Convention No. 30(Convention concerning the regulation of hours of work in commerce and offices).

[6] Article 3 of Convention No. 1; Article 4 of Convention No. 30.

[7] Article 3, 1) &2) of Ministerial Ordinance N° 630 / 117 of 9 may 1979 laying down the procedure for implementing the statutory working hours.

[8] Decree on Legal Duration of Working Time, Articles 8 &10

[9] Regulation of Wages (General) Order 1982, Article 5(1)

[10] Regulation of Wages (General) Order 1982, Article 5(2)

[11] Employment and Labour Relations Act 2004, Article 19(2)(b)

[12]Employment and Labour Relations Act 2004, Article 21

[13] The Employment Act, Article 53(1)

[14] The Employment Act, Article 53(2) (3) (4) (5)

[15] Labour Code, Article 130(1)A)

[16] Article 1 of Ministerial Ordinance N° 110 / 172 of 18th November 1971: Length of Paid annual leave and incidental leave.

[17] WageIndicator Collective Agreements Database

[18] Public Holidays and Rest Day Proclamation 1975, Article 3 & Public Holidays and Rest Day (Amendment) Proclamation 1996, Article 2

[19] The Employment Act, Article 54(4)

[20] Labour Code, Article 86

[21] Decree No. 2013-056 establishing paid public holidays

Liberat Bigirimana
Lawyer at the Burundi Bar
Bujumbura, Burundi

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