Employee’s Rights at Workplace in Bangladesh

Sakib Sikder

Managing Partner, Jural Acuity

By Anika Mardiah Chowdhury

Bangladesh is a populated country and here most people include in the labor force. Most of the labor organizations or companies or garments have their own rules and regulations but all of them had to follow the minimum statutory standards and must make rules according to the same. Bangladesh employment law or federal labor law is regulated by the Labour Act, 2006, and the 2015 Labour Rules. In this article, the employee’s right in the workplace regarding the right to weekly vacations or annual leave or working hours or wages and other rights shall be cover.

In Labour Act, 2006 worker means any person, including an apprentice employed in any establishment or industry, either directly or through a contractor, to carry out any skilled, unqualified, manual, technical, commercially promotional or clerical hire or reward work, whether the terms of employment are expressed or implied, but does not include a person employed primarily in managerial or clerical work. Any employee can demand his rights if hampered before the Labour Court and any person is abiding by the decisions of the Labour Court, can be seen in the case of James Finlay & Co. Ltd Vs. Chairman Second Labour Court, 1980, 9 CLC (AD) where the Labour Court held that the application was maintainable and ordered the reinstatement of the employee concerned. Against this decision, the appellant company moved the High Court of Bangladesh under Article 102 of the Constitution. The appellant company did not succeed before the High Court Division.

The 2006 Labour Act states the daily and weekly basis of working hours along with the overtime hours and their payment. The daily working hours shall be 8 hours with an interval as under section 108. Then weekly working hours shall be 48 hours up to 10 hours per day and 60 hours per week and on average 56 hours per week. There has a limitation for Women Workers that no shift from 10.00 pm to 06.00 am without the woman worker’s consent. It is to be mention that double employment is not allowed for any worker.

wages include salary, any bonus, or remuneration for overtime or any other remuneration payable in the course of employment. Wage is a right of an employee but under Labour Act 2006 the wages were not fixed rather it set a procedure for fixing the minimum wages rate. The maximum wage period is one month.

According to the Labour Law, each worker’s wage must be paid before the end of the seventh day after the last day when the wage is payable. This also applies if an employee has been terminated by retirement or by removal, dismissal, or retrenchment by the employer. Wages have to be paid in legal tender or through cheque and in some cases through an electronic transfer in favor of the bank account of the worker or through any other digital medium. It is to be mention that no deduction can be made from the wages except the reasons mentioned under section 125 of the Labour Act.

Under section 195 of the following Act given some restriction upon employers, which is the rights of an employee. Under this section restricted any kinds of discrimination against any person in regard to any employment, promotion, condition of employment, or working condition on the ground that such person is or is not a member or officer of any trade union.

Also, any employees have a fundamental right to take leave. There are many kinds of leave for sickness or maternity leave or annual leave and others as under the following Act.

Employees have a right to a safe workplace and to ensure workplace safety, the following Act instructs the employers to regularly examine the machinery. Section 75 of the Act 2006 provides the provisions regarding safety in the eyes of the workers. It also prohibits workers to engage in duties where the fumes are likely to be inflammable without precautions.

Also, the Labour Act 2006 ensures some special provisions regarding the health issue as well as safety for the employees under chapter VII, sections 79-88. According to this chapter, the workers should be notified of such operations which are hazardous and also harmful to their health.  In terms of women, workers are prohibited to work near machinery which is dangerous. The Government can make rules for securing the safety of persons employed in a factory or industrial establishments.

In the above discussion, we have seen the employees’ rights of wages, security, and others but since early march 2020 the coronavirus cases continue to increase, the employees have also the right to a healthy and safe workplace.  Every workplace or industry should determine the guidelines for safety and control the transmission and impact of covid-19.

Also, the provision to keep the workplace clean and safe states section 51 of the Labour Act, 2006 that every establishment must be kept clean and free from effluvia arising from any drain, privy, or any other nuisance. In particular, it can be said that dirt is to be removed by sweeping the floors, workrooms, staircases, and passages of the establishment on a daily basis. Thus, by keeping the workplace clean the transmission of the covid-19 can be stopped.

There are some other provisions also which can be said that ensures the safety of the employees as section 56 of the following Act prohibits overcrowding and states that “no workroom in any establishment shall be overcrowded to an extent injurious to the health of the workers employed therein”. Then under Section 116 states that all workers are entitled to sick leave with full wages for 14 days. These two weeks is also the time taken to be able to detect whether someone has in fact contracted Covid-19 and is mild. Thus, this can be saying that these provisions are the rights of each employee during this pandemic, and if any contravention results in such loss of life, the punishment can be up to four years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to Taka one lakh. Therefore, if an employer fails to uphold these safeguards, they would be liable to fine or imprisonment.

The employees have also some rights at the time of termination that the employer cannot fire or discipline for his misconduct unless the charges brought against him are reported in writing and a copy of the accusation shall be given to him with a duration of at least seven days to explain along with the chance to be heard. In the case of Md. Sadek Ali Vs. Government of Bangladesh and Others Writ Petition No. 7903 of 2011, the General Manager of the Mills terminated the worker from service. In so doing did not serve him any prior notice or give him an opportunity of being heard in any manner.  The court held writ petition does not appear to be maintainable and gave the consideration to the Management of Crescent Jute Mills Ltd. to take the proper decision.

An employer can retrench an employee on retirement grounds from the operation of any institution if any work has been in continuous service under an employer for at least one year, in the case of such worker being retrenched, the employer shall offer him one month’s notice in writing specifying the reasons for his withdrawal or pay him salaries for the duration of notice in lieu of such notice. If these conditions do not fulfill by the employer and employee can go before the court for demanding his right.

From the above discussion, it can be said that the Labour Act is quite well to protect the rights but some mechanisms are very poor like this does not mention the consequence if any employee’s faces sexual harassment in the workplace. Though it is said that the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 is a strong piece of legislation that covers the majority of the international standards but workers continue to face serious conditions without effective enforcement of it. There are fatal problems in the enforcement of the existing labour laws also it is proved that the law is inadequate to many extents to address the need of the workers. Thus, to ensure better rights the government shall keep monitoring the industries and other workplaces.