Casual Workers May Well Be Employees
The Supreme Court in the case of Benjamin Aryee & 691 Others v The Cocoa Marketing Board held that a worker initially employed as a casual worker but whose services are used continuously by the employer for a period exceeding 6 months will be deemed as a permanent worker and will be entitled to all the benefits available to permanent workers.
The Plaintiffs, in this case, were engaged by the Defendant Board as cocoa carriers, tarpaulin handlers, cleaners and to sew cocoa bags. They were later terminated. The Plaintiffs, therefore, sued the Defendant Board for wrongful termination of employment. The Plaintiffs’ complaint was that even though they had worked for the Cocoa Marketing Board continuously for over 4 years, the Defendant Board treated them as casual workers rather than as junior staffs. The Plaintiffs went on to say that the manner in which they were terminated was inconsistent with their status as junior staffs of the Defendant Board.
The Defendant Board denied the Plaintiffs’ claim. According to the Defendant Board, the Plaintiffs were casual workers and were engaged on a daily basis depending on the availability of work. The Defendant Board also denied that none of the Plaintiff’s worked continuously for over six months as alleged.
The Court’s main task was to determine the nature of the relationship between Plaintiffs and the Defendant Board. This meant that the court had to examine who a casual worker was under Ghanaian law. The court noted that a casual worker was (a) a worker engaged on a work which is seasonal or intermittent, and (b) not for a continuous period of more than six months, and (c) remuneration was calculated on a daily basis. The Supreme Court stressed that in order for one to be considered as a casual worker, the three conditions (a-c) outlined above must be present.
The Supreme Court found as a matter of fact that the Plaintiffs worked for a continuous period of more than six months; and the work they did was constantly available as there was always work at the Tema Port either for the Plaintiffs to carry cocoa bags from trucks and stack them into warehouses or move cocoa bags from warehouses into containers or vessels for export. The Court concluded that the Plaintiffs were employees of the Defendant Board. And as a result, the Plaintiffs were entitled to benefits due to employees of the Defendant Board.
This case is a reminder to employers of the need to constantly evaluate the status of the various categories of persons who work for them. Failure to do so, like in this case, may bring unplanned financial burdens to the employer. It must also be pointed out that who an “employee” is a question of law. And as a result, the descriptions that an employer gives to a worker may not be conclusive in determining the status of that worker.
 Civil Appeal No. J4/11/2017 (29 November 2017)
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