Bahrain firms warned over new labour law
Manama, November 27, 2012
Companies in Bahrain have been warned to start implementing a new labour law that came into effect from September 2 or risk facing legal action, said a senior government official.
Some workers have already filed successful complaints against employers for not providing 30 days annual leave, which is a right granted by the new law, Labour Ministry Under-Secretary Sobah Al Dossary was quoted as saying by our sister publication the Gulf Daily News.
He said the 30-day annual holiday entitlement applied to everyone regardless of whether they worked a five or six-day week, but said some firms were still not implementing it almost three months after it became law.
Under the old law workers were entitled to 24 days leave every year, but Al Dossary said the ministry had already ruled in favour of workers who were being denied the new annual holiday entitlement.
He added any genuine labour dispute that could not be resolved by the ministry in a month would be referred to the High Civil Court, which had to reach a verdict within a two-month deadline.
The fast-tracking of labour cases aims to ensure companies can no longer use lengthy court proceedings to deter employees from seeking their rights.
Al Dossary said companies had been aware of planned changes to the labour law for years, which is why there was no grace period for firms to adapt their internal practices to fall in line.
"Companies were aware about the new law years ago when it was first discussed in the National Assembly and had a general idea of their rights and their employees' rights under it," Al Dossary told the GDN.
"There is no grace period in implementing the new law and it is effective since September 2. Those still working under the old law must immediately change or face action from the ministry - with legal procedures being taken if necessary.
"Complaints by employees who have not been given their 30 days annual leave were settled in the ministry in their favour and employers have been told strictly that leave is based on the calendar year - whether people work five or six days a week.
"Any case that is not settled in general within the first month is referred to the High Civil Court, which takes two months to issue a verdict,” he added.
Al Dossary also said companies must compensate staff if their normal days off coincide with a public holiday.
This means that if a public holiday falls on a Friday, everyone who is normally off that day should be compensated with an additional day's holiday.
He also said the ministry encouraged firms still operating a six-day working week to switch to a five-day week, in line with the government.
"We encourage the five-day working system," he said.
Although the Labour Law is already in effect, the Cabinet is currently discussing bylaws that could be introduced to clarify certain areas.
"Some articles are ambiguous and require explanation, otherwise everything is clear," said Mr Al Dossary.
"The bylaws will be out before March 2 and we have suggested making Arafa (the last day of Haj and the day before Eid Al Adha) a public holiday in line with the government."
Under the new law, employees sacked unfairly would qualify for an entire year's salary in compensation.
Meanwhile, employers who violate the new law would face fines of BD200 ($524) to BD500.
Female private sector workers get 60 days' maternity leave instead of the previous 45 and are also entitled to another 15 days off without pay if additional time is needed, in line with their counterparts in the government sector.
Contracts signed under the previous law should also be updated to include benefits granted under the new legislation. However, if employees actually lose benefits as a result new contracts have to be drawn up.
Failure to implement proper health and safety standards at work could carry jail sentences of up to three months and fines of BD500 to BD1,000, or both. The punishment is doubled for a repeat offence.
Meanwhile, employees are granted sick leave of up to 15 days in a year with pay, 20 additional days at half pay and 20 more days without pay.
Sick leave can be extended by up to 182 days if ordered by a medical commission.
Employees aged 15 to 18 who are not working on a professional contract are also entitled to 30 days' annual leave. – TradeArabia News Service