Despite being under the leadership of a woman politician, Bangladesh continues to let down women when it comes to giving their rights. Women make up a significant chunk of the workforce in the South Asian country, particularly within the garment sector.
Research shows that out of all the 60 million workers employed in Bangladesh, 18.6 million are women. But still, female employees struggle to get their rights or enjoy true autonomy. Shockingly (and unsurprisingly) enough, most Bangladeshi women don’t get maternity benefits, which include paid leaves and childcare support, as dictated by the law.
On paper, Bangladesh’s Labor Act offers a comprehensive maternity policy, but how well and evenly it is implemented that’s a different story altogether. In this article, we discuss all that and more about maternity leave policies in Bangladesh.
Labor Law Act 2006
The Bangladeshi Labor Law Act 2006 (that was later amended and implemented as Labor Law Act 2013) has sections 45 through to 50 of chapter IV assigned to maternity benefits, in which section 46 solely focuses on maternity leave policies.
According to said State document, employers are to allot 4 months of paid leave, 8 weeks prior to delivery and 8 weeks post-childbirth, to pregnant women. Furthermore, the bill goes on as far as ‘prohibiting’ companies from asking female employees to come to work before the post-delivery 8 weeks.
But due to the uneven implementation or absence of legal standardization of the law, not all female employees get their maternity privileges as provided by the state.
Discrepancies in Law Compliance between Sectors
The lack of maternity law compliance is not only reflected when women are not given paid leave for childbirth but also when some sectors go beyond the commanded policy. That is, some government employees get 6 months of paid maternity leave and in 2012, the ministry of Education decreed the same for non-government teachers. Similarly, the Bangladesh Bank also asked all state-run and private banks to give their women workers 6 months long maternity leave.
The Garment Industry
Women make up 65% of the workforce in the ready-made garment (RMG) industry, but despite being in the majority, they don’t get their rights without a tussle. And unlike the banking sphere, the garment sector doesn’t have an internal maternity policy in place. So, the discrepancy in maternity law compliance within the RMG landscape is pretty noticeable.
According to a 2015 survey by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, 82% of the 3255 factories that were inspected, provided maternity benefits, and 65% of those also gave childcare accommodation. However, a UNICEF report published the same year illustrated a different picture.
The study revealed that many women workers feel pressured to return to work before 8 weeks post-delivery, while some are led to resign ‘voluntarily.’ Moreover, childcare accommodation and facilities are substandard, if not nonexistent. But researchers attributed the poor childcare support amenities to the lack of demand from mothers.
Since many Bangladeshi women have to commute long distances in unsafe transportation to get to work, they prefer not to bring their babies along. But even so, factory owners should offer at least average facilities, if not top-notch.
Although more and more women are getting employed in Bangladesh, they still have a long way to go to receive state-given benefits.