Motherhood versus Work and Maternity Laws

Published by The News Today on 4th November, 2016 (Link Above)

It wasn’t so long that there were inadequate laws to protect the rights of pregnant women at workplace. An employer could fire a pregnant woman if he didn’t want her at work. There was no guarantee of the job if a woman wanted to return to work after delivering the baby. Child care centers and trained nannies can benefit only a minuscule percentage of women of our society, while depriving the majority, who are working as contractual labour, waged workers, domestic workers, farmers or RMG workers and even in the large corporate houses. In many cases working women, if denied maternity leave, they have no other option but to quit work as there is none to look after the baby. Maternity leave means the temporary period of time that an expectant or new mother takes off from work during the months immediately before and/or after the birth of her baby. Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 (BLA 2006) allows working women with maternity benefit and contains rights and benefits to which a pregnant worker is entitled to. Section-45 of BLA 2006 states that, an employer cannot intentionally employ a woman in his establishment during the eight weeks immediately following the day of her delivery. Moreover, a women worker shall not work in any establishment during the eight weeks immediately following the day of her delivery. The female workers shall not be involved in any work of arduous nature during ten (10) weeks prior to and next to the delivery provided such fact is brought to the attention of the Employer. Women workers are entitled to the payment of maternity benefit for the period of eight (8) weeks preceding and immediately following the day of delivery. However, in order to be entitled, the woman has to work for a minimum period of six (6) months immediately prior to the date of delivery. The women workers are not entitled to the benefit but to the leave only if she has two (2) or more children (who are alive) during her confinement (Section- 46 of BLA 2006). She is required to serve a notice orally or in writing within eight (8) weeks prior to or seven (7) days following the delivery. (Section-47 of BLA 2006). The maternity benefit is payable on the basis of daily, weekly, or monthly average wages. It is calculated by dividing the total wages earned by her during three (3) months immediately preceding the date of her notice by the number of days she actually worked there in. (Section-48 BLA 2006) Female Workers shall be given a maternity leave of 16 (sixteen) week divided into 8 (eight) weeks prior to delivery and 8 (eight) weeks immediately following the day of delivery. Before the enactment of the BLA 2006 there were three other Acts to deal with the maternity benefits and rights of a pregnant woman. The Maternity Benefit Act 1939, The Mines Maternity Benefit Act 1941 and The Maternity Benefits (Tea Estate) Act 1950 have been replaced by the new Labour Code 2006. Government has introduced Bangladesh Labour Rules 2015 through a gazette which has provided some clarification in maternity laws. Rule 37 states that no one can make any remark so that a pregnant woman feels harassed mentally and physically, she will not be engaged in any risky work, she will have the right to use the lift, and after delivery there should be proper facility to support the breastfeeding of the baby. However, rule 38 has narrowed down some scopes of S.46(2) of BLA2006. Rule 197(1) of Part-I of the Bangladesh Service Rules provides for permanent government servants the right to take six months’ maternity leave and the Bangladesh Labour Act provides a worker with the right to take 16 weeks (apporx 4 months) maternity leave. In Bangladesh many companies have similar policies for fathers, which allow for paternity leave as well. A handful of companies regularly comply with provisions of maternity laws. Motherhood is a beautiful journey. But in the early days, feeding and caring for a newborn, 24-hour sleep and wake schedule and constant need for care are not very easy to deal with. Going through the postpartum depression, constant sleep deprivation are really difficult to cope with. It is very challenging for working mothers who return to work to strike a balance between motherhood versus work. Often it creates a constant guilt that they’re not doing enough for the new baby. Virtually the entire situation makes her feel alone, depressed, and unsure of her career. For many women, it’s not viable option to sacrifice the career while others might decide that staying home is easier than returning back to work. When a mother thinks about leaving her baby with someone else and not being with the baby all day, every day, it really hurts. When she is at work, she is constantly worrying about her kids and what needs to be done at home. The proper implementation of law in every organization and effective support from her family can help a mother to strike a balance between the motherhood and career.