1.In their Statement of Claim before the Trial Court, dated 18th March 2020, the Respondents in this Appeal, pleaded that they were employed by the Appellants as Chefs, in November 2018.
2.They pleaded that the Appellants wrongfully and unlawfully terminated their contracts in January 2020. They asked for terminal benefits and compensation for unfair termination, totalling Kshs. 1,110,452. They pleaded that termination was by way of redundancy.
3.The Appellants filed their Statement of Response at the Trial Court, which is dated 19th February 2021. Their position was that indeed, they employed the Respondents herein as Chefs. Employment was under 1-year fixed term contracts, which expired on 31st December 2019. Termination was by lapse of fixed term contracts, not by way of redundancy.
4.Parties agreed at the Trial Court, on 21st October 2021, that the Claim proceeds by way of documentary evidence and written submissions. Judgment as indicated above, was delivered on 7th February 2022.
5.The Trial Court awarded the Respondents 4 months’ salary each in compensation for unfair termination, and a month’s salary each in notice. The Trial Court concluded that termination was through redundancy, and that the Appellants had not acted in accordance with Section 40 of the Employment Act, 2007.
6.The Appellants challenge the Judgment of the Trial Court on 4 grounds contained in the Memorandum of Appeal, dated 10th February 2022.
7.A summary of these grounds is that, the Trial Court failed to analyse the facts and issues before it, and in particular erred in concluding that the Respondents’ contracts were terminated by the Appellants on account of redundancy.
8.Parties agreed to have the Appeal considered and determined based on the Record of Appeal and Submissions, which the Parties confirmed to have filed and exchanged at the last mention before the Court, on 29th July 2022.
The Court Finds: -
9.The Record of Appeal indicates that the Respondents were employed on limited-term contracts.
10.The 1st Respondent, was employed on 1st January 2019. He signed his contract on the same date. The term indicated on the contract was 1 year, ending 31st December 2019. The contract stated at clause 11 that, ‘’ unless otherwise agreed in writing, this agreement shall automatically lapse on 31st December 2019.’’
11.The 2nd Respondent was employed on 1st January 2019. Her term would end on 31st December 2019. Clause 11 gave the date for automatic lapse, on 31st December 2019, unless otherwise agreed in writing.
12.The 3rd Respondent was employed on the same date as the Co-Respondents, on similar limited-term contract.
13.These contracts were exhibited, and were not discussed in the Judgment of the Trial Court. There was no reason given in the Judgment, why it was concluded that termination was through redundancy and not expiry of the contracts. There were clearly drawn limited-term contracts, which lapsed on 31st December 2020. The Appellants had no legal obligation to justify termination in any other way, other than that provided for under the respective contracts: lapse of the contractual period.
14.It was the duty of the Trial Court, based on the evidence placed before it, to explain why the contracts could not be relied upon, to justify termination.
15.The notices dated 1st October 2019, issued by the Appellants to the Respondents, advising that the bakery section where the Respondents worked would be shutting down in 2 months, did not change the terms of the contracts executed on 1st January 2019. Whether the bakery section shut down or remained open beyond 31st December 2019, would have no effect, on the Effective Date of Termination [EDT], given under the Respondents’ contracts, unless there was an agreement in writing between the Parties, for variation of the EDT, in accordance with clause 11 of the expiring contracts.
16.The Court is persuaded that the Trial Court did not evaluate the evidence placed before it adequately, and failed to explain disregard of the limited-term contracts exhibited by the Appellants.It is Ordered: -a.The Appeal is allowed.b.Parties shall bear their own costs of the Trial and the Appeal.