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The practice of making deductions from worker’s pay is an established mechanisms in the Ghanaian employment field which legislation has always tried to control. This is because if practiced arbitrarily or excessively, making deductions can leave a worker living in a precarious situation as they cannot expect their full income and their take home pay. A worker’s right to their wages is principally protected under Ghanaian labour Act. The underlying principle of the labour Act is rooted in the common law doctrine entitling all employees to be paid for work done.
Immediately after the 2016 election victory, the NPP administration quickly sent a circular out to health workers informing them that the three (3) yearly promotion, conversations etc they used to buy at GHC 5 have been abolished and now free. It was part of the promises the Npp gave the health workers during the 2016 campaign. The workers were still in their celebration mood when a circular came from government announcing new salary deductions.
The letter stated that “it has become imperative for the service to initiate a plan to take care of its members especially in these crucial and life threatening moments should they happen. The leadership of the service have therefore come up with health insurance fund for its members where some amount of monies will be deducted at source (1% of salary) every month”
Per the content, let’s assume the average health worker salary is GHC 1,700 per month. What it means is that each month he or she will be paying GHC 40.00 as insurance by a year, he is paying GHC 480.00 for his health. Of course even some house officers take around GHC 3,500.00 per month and specialists take home around GHC 20,000. This means that specialists are paying around GHC 2,000 every year as insurance not that they automatically access the scheme because they might not use it at all.
Now the question the workers are asking is- why should health workers in the hospitals pay for their health? Is like you are working with a chop bar and you are hungry and the bar owner tells you to bring money before he or she gives you food. The most disgusting aspect is that after establishing this fund government will appoint party inexperienced party footsoldiers to manage the fund of which they will go home with GHC 30,000 to GHC 40,000 every month as salary at the expense of the poor health worker who goes home with GHC 1,200 after their deduction.
HEALTHWATCH, an Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) also discovered that, government initially proposed an annual GHC deduction from workers salary to support the collapsed health insurance scheme but because of the obvious reaction from workers, they smartly pudhed the plan through taxes and the deductions.
The labour Act permits deductions where the worker has given his expressed consent. These deductions must be paid to the appropriate persons or fund agreed by the worker and approved by the state authority. Per the arrangement captured in the letter, it is not obvious whether the deductions can be included in the employment contract,as a separate agreement,or even what form of deductions are permitted under this particular arm.