Bangladesh Cabinet clears policy for domestic helps

Bangladesh has cleared its first-ever policy for domestic helps, setting 14 years as the minimum age for employment.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 21 Dec 2015, 09:20 AM
Updated : 21 Dec 2015, 03:31 PM

The move implies domestic work will be recognised as a profession under the Labour Act and female domestic helps will get four months of maternity leave along with other public holidays, says Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam.

Monday’s meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, gave its stamp of approval to the Domestic Help Protection and Welfare Policy.

Alam told reporters that the new code would entitle domestic helps to the benefits under the existing labour law.

No-one below 14 years would be employed as a domestic worker, and the working hours and salaries must be negotiated, he added.

The provisions of existing laws would deal with cases of physical torture of the workers, the Cabinet secretary said, in the backdrop of numerous cases of physical assault on domestic helps.

The policy also entitles domestic helps to time for rest and relaxation.

State Minister for Labour Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu told bdnews24.com that a law will be formulated based on the policy.

Citing a survey, he said there was two million domestic helps in Dhaka in 2010. But the number has gone up massively.

Chunnu admitted that the government had no idea at the moment how many domestic helps were currently at work.

The Cabinet on Monday also approved the draft of the president’s speech to be delivered in the first session of Parliament next year.

Drafts for the laws of Bangladesh Investment Authority and Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation also got the Cabinet’s nod.

The secretary said the draft of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill-2015 was approved on principle.

Domestic Help Protection and Welfare Policy

The employer must now ensure a full-time domestic help’s salaries and other allowances, which has to suffice for living a respectful life in society, says the policy, a copy of which is with bdnews24.com.

Any clothing or other forms of support have to be excluded from the salary arrangement.

Domestic help engagement must follow the Labour Act, under which the minimum age of a help must be 14 years.

File photo

In order to appoint someone 12 years of age, the employer must negotiate the terms with a legal guardian of the child, under the presence of a third party witness. The arrangement must include responsibilities, date of appointment, preoccupation, leaves and breaks, accommodation, diet and clothing allowance.

As per the policy, the employer has to distribute work hours ensuring proper rest, sleep, entertainment and leaves.

All domestic help must entitle to a healthy and safe space for sleeping while they are off duty. In addition, they must have the scope for prayers according to their religion.

When in sickness, the help must be abstained from workload and the employer will have to pay for all necessary treatments, according to the policy. The employer will be under the obligation to compensate for any accidents, including treatment expenses.

Any kind of indecent behaviour, physical, sexual or mental torture will be prohibited strictly from now on. The government will take full responsibility for any cases filed over harassment and/or violence, and the perpetrators will be brought to justice, says the policy.

The ministries of labour and employment, home, social welfare, women and children affairs will provide clear and concise regulations regarding harassment and violence issues.

The employer can now terminate the contract and take legal action if the domestic help causes harassment, physical or mental violence on children, ill or old people of the employer’s family.

Local police stations may also document photos and details of domestic helps when they are appointed, if the employer finds it necessary, from now on.

The employer can now file general diary with local police if the domestic help leaves without any notice. But the employer will be able to take legal measures if the help flees after stealing money or properties.

Without any special circumstance, the domestic help and the employer will have to notify the other party, one month prior to their resignation or dismissal. Immediate termination will come with a month’s salary from the employer.

The labour and employment ministry is creating a monitoring cell to implement the policy.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher