Workers all around the world are protected through the right to form a union, along with promises of equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender. Core labor standards have been set out by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that member states, including Bangladesh, must follow. This is so that workers are given the freedom of association, along with the right to bargain, are protected against any sort of forced labor and child labor, and do not face discrimination in employment.

In 2013, the Bangladesh Labor Act (BLA) was renewed in order to closely follow international labor standards. It included laws to protect workers, such as the right to form a trade union without informing employers mandatorily and also, the right to safe working conditions. The Bangladesh Labor Rules 2015 were announced so that the BLA could be implemented properly.

That being said, Bangladesh still ranks among the top 10 worst countries when it comes to the rights of employees, especially female employees. According to World Bank 2017 reports, female participation in the workforce is 29.1 percent, showing a clear gap in gender equality.

Female Workers in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Labor Act (BLA) puts stern emphasis on the international standard of equal pay for equal work. However, in practice, the gender pay gap is rising day by day, especially in Bangladesh’s informal sector.

In Bangladesh, male and female workers who work the same job and the same number of hours are paid differently. Moreover, in the informal sector, female workers are not protected by any legal framework.

While the ILO convention does not pass rules in regards to sexual harassment and violence at the workplace, many other conventions call for these protections. However, the BLA only focuses on some aspects of women’s labor protections, such as no female worker can be forced to work between 10 pm at night to 6 am in the morning, and indecent behavior towards women in the workplace is not allowed.

The Bangladesh National Women Lawyer’s Association (BNWLA) filed a petition in the High Court in 2009. They were successful in making the court lay down some guidelines for protection against sexual harassment and violence in the workplace against women. Sexual harassment was defined, and sexual harassment complaint centers were set up in all workplaces. Even though the law was passed, this practice has not been implemented.

Maternity Protection for Female Workers

The ILO conventions protect mothers by raising health and safety standards, especially for pregnant or nursing mothers. According to these laws, no woman can be forced to do any work that puts her or her child in danger.

However, the scenario in Bangladesh is different. The only law that protects women is one where employees who are having a baby within 10 weeks or have had a baby in the last 10 weeks do not have to take part in difficult work, such as work that needs them to be on their feet for long or any other work that affects their health.

Even though the ILO convention states that women must receive 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, along with an additional six weeks leave after childbirth, the BLA only allows 6 weeks of maternity leave before and after childbirth. No other laws have been passed to protect women’s health and safety in Bangladesh.

To learn more about women’s labor rights around the world, visit us at Global People Strategist!