Bill proposes pay and perks for public service interns

Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda

Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda. Interns in the public service will be entitled to monthly pay, sick leave and personal accident insurance covers should a proposed law initiated by Ms Lesuuda be passed by Parliament.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Interns in the public service will be entitled to monthly pay, sick leave and personal accident insurance covers should a proposed law be passed by Parliament.

The proposals are contained in the Public Service Internship Bill, 2022 by Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda and seek to improve the working conditions of interns in public offices in both the national and county governments.

The Bill proposes that public offices have an annual budget to cater for the monthly pay of interns, who will be recruited for maximum terms of 12 months.

It has not prescribed a minimum stipend for the interns but has given the Cabinet Secretary for Labour the mandate to draft regulations that will determine the pay rate as well as make further provisions that will help implement the law.

“For purposes of the effectiveness of an internship programme, every public service institution shall plan and budget for internship programmes (and) pay the prescribed stipends to interns in accordance with this Act,” states the Bill.

Interns will also be entitled to a subsistence allowance to cater for their basic needs such as food, fare and airtime. They will also be eligible for other perks during the internship period.

“In addition to the monthly stipend and insurance cover provided in sections 10 and 11 respectively, every intern engaged in the public service shall be entitled to sick leave as may be applicable in the prevailing regulations; maternity or paternity leave; and subsistence allowance as may be determined by the Cabinet Secretary from time to time,” states the Bill.

While Article 55 of the Constitution provides that the state shall take measures, including affirmative action programmes to ensure that the youth have access to services such as education, training and employment, Kenya currently does not have robust laws on internships.

Struggling interns

The Bill comes at a time most private and public firms don’t pay interns, with many struggling to cater for their basic necessities.

While some public offices pay interns, they do so of their own volition as there is no law requiring them to, a legal gap that the Bill proposes to close. 

The National Employment Authority Act, for instance, only mandates the National Employment Authority to help facilitate the placement of students seeking internships and attachments to get those positions. The Act does not envisage payment of stipends to interns.

Ms Lesuuda, in her memorandum of objects and reasons for the Bill, said the payment of stipends to interns is necessary as they contribute to the manpower of organisations by offering their professional skills as apprentices.

“The principal object of this Bill is to establish a legal framework for the regulation of internship programmes within the public service. The Bill seeks to ensure the provision of a monthly stipend, insurance and other entitlements to persons engaged in internships within the public service for the duration of the internship programme,” said Ms Lesuuda.

The government has in recent times tried to promote internships by providing incentives for private firms to hire more interns. In the Finance Act, 2021, the government dangled to employers who offer internships to at least 10 students from technical or vocational training colleges the carrot of tax rebates amounting to 50 per cent of their salaries in the year following the internship.

The move took effect in January last year as part of the government’s plan to encourage employers to take in more graduates from technical institutions, which have emerged as key pillars in the creation of new jobs, especially in the informal sector, as opposed to giving rebates for interning university graduates only.


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