Senator Moves to Alter Public Holidays to Give Kenyans More Off Days

Kiambu Senator Karungo Thangwa speaking after attending a Church service on Sunday May 28, 2023
Kiambu Senator Karungo Thangwa speaking after attending a Church service on Sunday May 28, 2023.
Karungo Thangwa

Kiambu Senator Karungo wa Thang'wa, on Thursday, June 1, announced plans to petition changes to the Public Holidays Act to give Kenyans more extra days on holidays. 

The senator announced that he was tabling a Public Holiday Amendment Bill, which would ratify holidays falling on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In his proposal, Karungo stated that Monday should be a rest day too, when a holiday falls on a Tuesday. He added that if a holiday falls on Thursday, the government should also gazette Friday as an extra rest day.

"Where in any year, a public holiday (a) falls on a Tuesday, then the preceding day, shall be a public holiday or (b)  falls on a Thursday, the succeeding day shall also be a public holiday," his amendment bill read in part.

Kiambu Senator Karungo Thangwa during a senate committee meeting on May 29, 2023
Kiambu Senator Karungo Thangwa during a senate committee meeting on May 29, 2023.
Karungo Thangwa

There will be no changes to a public holiday on a Wednesday. Karungo did not explain why Wednesday was not listed for changes under his bill, raising loopholes in his motion. 

Karungo defended the Holiday Amendment Bill, which he argued was critical to promoting domestic tourism in the country.

Moreover, in his argument, Holiday Economics stipulate that an extra off day would help workers prioritise their physical and mental well-being in the long run and spur productivity in various sectors.

"Extending public holidays supports economic growth and promotes domestic tourism by encouraging longer trips and visit to new destinations, benefiting the hospitality and tourism industry," he stated.

Karungo thus implored Kenyans to lobby their members of parliament and senators to support his table when tabled before the National Assembly.

He cited other developed countries like the Philippines, which embrace similar holiday structures. In the Philippines, when Tuesday is a holiday, the following Monday is declared a special non-working day. Karungo thus dismissed claims that the country would make losses for adopting that holiday structure.

The policy, termed Holiday Economics, was introduced in the Philippines by the country's 14th President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

His sentiments came after Madaraka Day Celebration, which fall on Thursday, June 1. Following the public holiday, most Kenyans reported to work on Friday, June 2.

Digital Strategist Dennis Itumbi had also proposed a raft of changes to the Public Holidays Act. On Thursday, May 25, Itumbi stated that the government had adopted a new holiday model from one day to one week.

Itumbi indicated various activities would be held before the actual holiday.

"As you are all aware, we have changed national holidays from one day to one week. The President will be here to launch the expo. The theme is around, empowering enterprises, SMEs, trade and revenue," he stated.

Public Holiday Acts

According to the Act, a Cabinet Secretary can declare a public holiday any day he deems fit through a gazette notice. The Act grants the CS powers to either extend the holiday or even announce a holiday targeting a specific area.

"The Minister may at any time if he thinks fit, by notice in the Gazette, declare any day to be a public holiday either in addition to the days mentioned in the Schedule or in substitution for any of those days and either throughout Kenya or in any district, area or part thereof," the Act reads.

The Act also stipulates that the following Monday becomes a rest day when a public holiday falls on a Sunday.

President William Ruto Guard of Honour
President William Ruto inspects the Guard of Honour during Madaraka Day Celebrations on Thursday, June 1, 2023.