The Cabinet on 3rd September, 2018, approved a draft of the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act, 2018 incorporating suggestions and advice provided by the international community to make the law more worker-friendly.

The Labour Act was originally passed in the year 2006 consolidating all relevant laws and then radically amended in 2013. In 2015, the Parliament introduced the Labour Rules to supplement the Act. The new amendment reportedly brings changes to 41 sections out of 354 sections of the Act.

The cabinet-approved draft, which is soon expected to be placed in Parliament as a bill, is yet to be publicized. However, highlights of the amendments, collected from various newspaper reports, are as follows:

  • Formation of a tripartite consultation committee (TCC) comprising of workers, owners and government representatives to resolve any industrial dispute;
  • The participation of workers required to form trade unions at factories will be reduced to 20 percent from the existing 30 percent;
  • Timeline for completing the registration process of a trade union within 55 days instead of 60;
  • Mandatory maternity leave for workers – expectant mothers would be entitled to eight-week maternity leave and other benefits within three days of submission of necessary documents – penalty of Taka 25,000 to be imposed on charge of depriving an expectant mother of maternity leave;
  • Ban on child labor in factories – employment of child workers would subject the employer to a fine of Taka 5,000; the current law allows a child to do light work on condition that it would not be harmful to his health and his education will not be hampered. However, the proposed draft totally prohibits engagement of children and physically challenged persons in any risky job.
  • Truncate the discretionary power of the Director General of the Labour Department in cancelling registration of a trade union;
  • A worker of an industry to be a member of only one trade union, while a punishment of one month imprisonment for dual membership is proposed.
  • Punitive actions against workers for unlawful actions such as physical assault, issuing threat or mounting undue pressure to compel owners to sign any agreement, disrupting power, gas or water supplies, and unlawful shutdowns;
  • Review of punishment for workers- A worker or owner would face one-year imprisonment or penalty of Taka 10,000 or both for any misconduct including violation of the law;
  • Support of 51 percent workers would be required to enforce any work abstention or lock-out while the amendment proposes reducing the jail term of a worker for taking part in any illegal lock-out to six months from the current one year.
  • Worker would receive festival allowances as per the rules, and workers of the export-oriented and foreign exchange earning industries would enjoy the facilities from the central group insurance policy;
  • Every industrial unit having more than 25 workers must have the arrangements of a dining and a rest room with facilities of drinking water;
  • Workers can avail weekly holiday merged with festival holidays;
  • On any festival holiday, a worker can be asked to work in exchange of one-day alternative holiday and compensation allowances equivalent to wages of two days;
  • Preparation of a standard operating procedure (SOP) for registration of the labor organizations to be done;
  • Compensation for death of a worker has been increased to Tk 2,00,000 from Tk 1,00,000, however, in case of permanent injury, compensation to be awarded will be Tk 2,50,000 instead of Tk. 1,25,000.
  • Working hour of a worker in general should not be more than 10 hours a day excluding dining and rest time

– Saqeb Mahbub, Associate Partner & Rifat Rahman, Associate