Prior to the merger of all labour laws by the Bangladesh Labour Act of 2006, there were three different laws governing maternity benefits for women during certain periods before and after childbirth and the payment of maternity benefits to such women. These are the Maternity Benefits Act 1939 (which has been most widely used in manufacturing, service and other organisations), the Mining Maternity Benefits Act 1941 and the Maternity Benefits (Tea Plantations) Act 1950. These three laws were repealed and incorporated into the new Chapter IV of the Labour Law as „maternity benefits“. The real purpose of maternity leave is to ensure that a woman can care for the newborn without work obligations. When a healthy mother returns to work, she can devote herself fully to her responsibilities. About 70 countries offer paid leave to fathers in the form of paternity leave or shared parental leave, according to a 2014 ILO report. Some companies, like Microsoft, offer two weeks of paid vacation, while Google India offers ten days. Other companies, like this one, offer new dads paid time off ranging from a few days to a few weeks. According to a 2015 survey by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, 82% of the 3255 factories inspected offered maternity benefits and 65% of them also provided accommodation for childcare. However, a UNICEF report published the same year paints a different picture. Women make up 65% of the workforce in the ready-to-wear industry, but although they are in the majority, they do not get their rights without a struggle. And unlike the banking sector, there is no internal maternity policy in the clothing sector. Thus, the difference in maternity observance in the GMI landscape is quite striking.
According to this State document, employers must grant pregnant women 4 months of paid leave, 8 weeks before childbirth and 8 weeks after delivery. In addition, the bill goes so far that it „prohibits“ companies from asking employees to come to work before 8 weeks after giving birth. Section 46 of the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 guarantees a worker 16 weeks` maternity leave. Article 197, paragraph 1, of the Bangladesh Regulations grants six months to female civil servants and article 4, paragraph 1, of the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 grants women workers at least 14 weeks` maternity leave. In 1974, Sweden became the first country in the world to grant fathers the legal right to take paid leave from work, known as paternity leave. Paternity leave is usually prepared only for fathers, which is usually taken shortly after the birth of a child and is intended to allow the father to spend time with his partner, new child and older children. The employee receives vacation pay equal to the last salary received immediately before the start of paternity leave. Section 17 of the New Zealand Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 guarantees paternity leave to the employee. Thus, under the new rules, paid holidays are not taken into account in the calculation of the average daily wage, since the total number of working days is set at 26. In addition, in the month immediately preceding the holiday, the chances of working overtime are also lower because the employee is in the last trimester. Of course, if the new method were applied, the average daily wage would be much lower than before.
The proper development of a child requires the effective support of both mother and father. In addition to the mother, a child also needs a father, so it is high time that the government of Bangladesh considered approving a law on paternity leave for employees and male workers. It is essential that laws and policy frameworks take into account maternity protection rights and that laws are effectively enforced. It is important that this new amendment be revised taking into account the voice of workers in order to ensure a comfortable working environment for women so that they do not have to give up their jobs to have children. Instead of taking a step back, we need to explore ways to more effectively address, implement and monitor existing maternity leave challenges. After Pakistan`s independence in 1971, the Government of Bangladesh maintained the previous laws through the Bangladesh Laws Ordinance (Presidential Order No. 48). Until the passage of the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, there had been no significant development in the history of labour legislation. The Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, amended on 14 November 2018, is an important and comprehensive decree concerning the industrial relations system by codifying existing labour laws to avoid overlaps and inconsistencies and has made significant changes in industrial relations systems.
Finally, I would like to share a personal experience. That was 25 years ago, I had just had my baby and was looking for a job. During a job interview, employers complained about women`s employment in the labour market because of their responsibility to ensure maternity leave, etc. I was so desperate to get the job that I said I had already had my first child and had no plans to have a second one in the next five years. Maternity leave in Bangladesh is often just a clause on paper that has no real impact on many women. Under article 45 of the 2006 Labour Code, a worker is entitled to 120 days of leave with full entitlement. But to what extent is it implemented in the workplace? Can a pregnant woman really enjoy all the rights that the law grants her? The Bangladesh Labour Code, 2006 (which was later amended and implemented as the Labour Code 2013) includes sections 45 to 50 of Chapter IV allocated to maternity benefits, where section 46 focuses exclusively on maternity leave policies. In India, under Rule 43-A of the Central Civil Service Leave Regulations 1972, paternity leave provisions have been introduced for male employees, where male employees have fewer than two surviving children available for 15 days to care for their wives and a newborn child. His Government stressed its commitment to gender equality and stressed the need to ensure maternity leave, and the issue had also been an important point of discussion at the global level.
In order to empower women, women are encouraged to reorganize their family responsibilities and address issues of socio-political importance. In the labour market, employers must create an environment that encourages women`s participation by providing childcare services and recovery facilities during pregnancy. Major international organizations are now considering extending maternity leave to 6 months and increasing other benefits. However, we are lagging far behind. Our employers believe that granting the mandatory 120 days of maternity leave will result in losses for the company. If this attitude prevails, they will naturally be discouraged from hiring female employees and those who have already entered the labour market will continue to lag behind their male employees. Apart from the few NGOs and large companies, very few offices grant their employees the right to maternity leave, even though it is a binding legal obligation. While the government has attempted to reduce gender inequality in the workplace, sexism remains a major problem in most jobs. On paper, Bangladesh`s labor laws offer a comprehensive maternity policy, but how it is implemented is fine and evenly is a whole different story. In this article, we discuss all this and more about the maternity leave policy in Bangladesh. However, due to the uneven application or lack of legal standardization of the law, not all female employees receive their maternity privileges as provided by the State. Research shows that of the 60 million workers employed in Bangladesh, 18.6 million are women.
Yet employees struggle for their rights or real autonomy. Shockingly (and not surprisingly), most Bangladeshi women do not receive maternity pay, which includes paid leave and childcare assistance, as required by law. Recently, the 2015 Labour Regulations were amended and up to 101 amendments were introduced. The 2015 rules are intended to complement the 2006 Labour Code, which empowers the government to formulate rules to enable better implementation of the law. With the adoption of the rules, the competent ministry has generally established detailed procedural provisions to facilitate the application of the substantive provisions of the parent law and, as such, the rules cannot override the provisions or restrict a substantive right enshrined in the law. However, immediately after the amendment to the Labour Code was published in an official gazette, several workers` rights groups and activists expressed their dissatisfaction with a number of new registrations. In particular, the amendments to the provisions on maternity benefits merit careful consideration, as they may have restricted the fundamental rights enshrined in the Labour Code. As regards fathers` right to parental leave, the current legislation in the United Kingdom has provided an exciting example.