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Note: This response was originally submitted in Arabic.  Unofficial English translation provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

What department or departments have significant responsibility for business and human rights within your government?

  • Ministry of Human Rights Affairs
  • Ministry of Interior
  • Ministry of Labour

What are the top 5 priority issues that your government has taken steps to address since June 2011?

The most important aspects of initiatives:

  • Promoting labour rights under the Labour Law for the private sector, including the rights of working women, and improving the benefits granted to workers.
  • Adopting the principle of the right of foreign workers to move from one employer to another without requiring the consent of the current employer.
  • Adopting the principle of trade-union pluralism at the corporate level and at the level of labour unions.

Actions on core labour rights (including freedom of association)

Labour Law for the Private Sector:

The new law includes many benefits, some did not exist before and some were enhanced [increased]. The most important of these benefits are listed as follows:

  • Extending the period within which a worker cannot waive some of their established rights after the termination of employment from one month under the current law to three months. This ensures that the worker will receive all of their rights intact, even if a waiver was made during the first three months after the termination of employment.
  • Raising the age of a juvenile from 14 under the current law to 15 years old in line with international labour standards and the ratification of the Kingdom of Bahrain of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989.
  • Permitting women to be employed in day and night jobs, except for night jobs in certain professions, in line with international labour standards which prohibit discrimination against women in this regard. The current law prohibits the employment of women in night jobs except in certain professions and jobs that have been determined by a ministerial decree.
  • Extending the period of maternity leave to sixty days on full pay instead of 45 days under the current law.
  • Entitling a working woman to an unpaid leave to provide care for her child, who is not more than six years of age, for a maximum of six months in each instance, and for a maximum of three instances during her service. This leave is not included in the current law. It was added to concur with international labour standards prescribed in this regard.
  • Explicitly stipulating the prohibition of discrimination in wages on the basis of gender, national origin, language, religion or ideology. This is a new provision added to concur with international labour standards, particularly International Convention No. 111 of 1958 on anti-discrimination in employment and occupation, which was ratified by the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2000.
  • Stipulating that workers are entitled to half pay if they report for duty but are unable to work due to reasons beyond the control of their employer. This new provision is to guarantee a part of the worker's wage so as to contribute to the provision of their daily living expenses
  • Stipulating that workers employed on night shift basis and workers under the occupational confinement system are entitled to an allowance in addition to their basic salary. This new provision is intended to take into account the work nature for these groups.
  • Stipulating that workers are entitled to an annual leave for a period of thirty days when they complete at least one year of service with their employer. The current law prescribes 21 days if the worker's length of service is less than five years, and 28 days if the length of service is more than that. Thus, the new law has consolidated the prescribed annual leave in the private sector and differentiated it from the prescribed leave of workers in the civil service system.
  • Stipulating incidental leave for a period not exceeding six days per year and for a maximum of two days in each instance, provided that it is counted as part of the annual leave granted to the worker. This is to deal with unforeseen events that prevent the worker from notifying the employer in advance. This type of leave did not exist in the past.
  • Stipulating a paid leave for the death of the male spouse (Iddah) for one month, in addition to three months and ten days to be counted against the female worker's annual leave, or as an unpaid leave if the balance of her annual leave is insufficient. This leave is new and follows the model used for female workers in the public sector, and implements the Islamic Sharia ruling in this regard.
  • Increasing the maximum sick leave balance to 240 days for the whole duration of service, which follows the model used for government employees. Maximum sick leave balance in the current law is 182 days.
  • Extending sick leaves to become fifteen days at full pay, twenty days at half pay, and twenty days without pay. The current law prescribes them to be fifteen days at full pay, fifteen days at half pay, and fifteen days without pay.
  • Stipulating the obligation of a worker not to compete with the employer after the termination of employment, in a manner that preserves the rights of both parties. The current law does not include a provision regulating this issue, and resorts to the legal decision of civil law in this regard.
  • Stipulating disciplinary sanctions to be imposed on workers who commit a punishable breach in accordance with the adopted list of the sanctions, which is similar to the disciplinary sanctions set forth in the Civil Service Act, to bring the two sectors closer. The current law includes disciplinary sanctions that are substantially different than those set forth in the Civil Service Act.
  • Stipulating that a contract that is concluded for a period of more than five years, or if its initial and renewed terms combined are more than five years, or if the parties to it keep executing it after the expiry of its term without an expressed agreement on its renewal, is deemed to be an indefinite term contract.
  • Determining the worker's due compensation if the employer terminates the contract without a legitimate reason, in order to avoid disputes between the parties, and to reduce the number of labour actions filed before the judiciary. This will encourage citizens [verbatim: national workforce] to work in the private sector.
  • Stipulating the right of the employer to terminate the contract when the worker reaches sixty years of age, which falls in line with what is currently followed in the civil service system and with the Social Insurance Law. The current law does not include this provision.
  • Stipulating that workers are entitled to severance pay upon the termination of their employment for any reason, to be equivalent to the wages of a half a month for each of the first three years and the wages of one month for each subsequent year. The current law reduces the reward if the worker resigns, so that they get a third of the amount if their service with the employer is not less than three years and not more than five years.
  • Stipulating a new way to settle individual labour disputes, where an Authority that shall be established by the Ministry of Labour settles such individual disputes with the approval of the worker and the employer before resorting to the judiciary. If an amicable settlement cannot be reached, it is left up to the worker and the employer individually to decide whether to resort to the judiciary or not. This is in line with the constitutionally guaranteed right of litigation. The current law makes the acceptance of a labour action by the judiciary subject to lodging a labour complaint first to the Ministry of Labour.
  • Establishing a labour-cases judge system in which labour actions are filed with a judge who prepares them and adjudicates their conciliation within two months. If conciliation between the parties cannot be reached, the judge refers the case to the Higher Civil Court for adjudication by virtue of binding judgment to both parties within one month of the action's referral, which helps to expedite adjudication in labour cases and remedies the slowness of litigation in such cases.
  • Developing a new integrated legal system for collective bargaining that takes place between workers and employers, which contributes to spreading and strengthening social peace in labour relations.
  • Developing an integrated legal system for collective labour agreements that result from the collective bargaining that takes place between the workers and the employer. Such collective agreements often include better conditions for workers than those prescribed by law and other applicable regulations.
  • To ensure the success of collective bargaining and collective labour agreements concluded between workers and employers, an administrative unit in the Ministry of Labour shall be established to be in charge of collective bargaining affairs and to monitor the implementation of collective labour agreements.
  • Fully reorganizing the Arbitration Court in charge of collective labour disputes, so as to ensure that this court performs its entrusted assignments in the fullest manner with regard to the settlement of collective labour disputes that arise between employers and worker, or any portion thereof.
  • The provisions relating to occupational safety and health have been revised, so as to activate the role of Ministry Inspectors in monitoring the commitment of employers to occupational health and safety matters in order to protect the health of the workers and to prevent their exposure to risks at work. The structure of the authority for occupational health and safety is reconsidered to ensure the performance of the assigned tasks. Additionally, a council on occupational safety and health shall be created with representatives from all concerned authorities with its mission being to design and implement public policy in the field of occupational health and safety and the work environment.
  • Stipulating that employers are obligated to provide basic health care to workers regardless of their number, as opposed to the current law which restricts this obligation to employers [who employ 50 or more workers] with 50 or more workers.

Freedom of Movement for Foreign Workers:

The Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the leading nations with respect to granting foreign workers all their labour and human rights and providing a suitable working environment for all workers. This is reflected in Resolution number 79 of 2009 on the procedures for a foreign worker to move to another employer, as it is an example of the efforts and trends of Bahrain to eliminate all forms of forced labour and to grant workers the right to move to another job without restrictions.

With the issuance of this resolution, Bahrain became the first nation in the region that grants foreign workers the right to move from one employer to another without the consent of their current employer. This resolution won praise from many countries, particularly labour-exporting countries.

This resolution gave protection to foreign workers from exploitation or abuse, or wage discrimination against them when they are offered lower wages than those offered to others in the market for similar occupations. This resolution also grants them the freedom of selecting their work, which is in line with many international standards in the field of human rights and labour rights. This resolution also permits raising salary rates in the labour market and bringing human resources up to competition among business owners, as well as protecting the worker from being exposed to inadequate or undesirable working conditions as they could easily and legally move to another employer.

Trade union pluralism:

The amendments brought by Legislative Decree number 35 of 2011, approved amending some provisions of the Trade Unions Act promulgated by Legislative Decree number 33 of 2002 on trade union pluralism at the level of unions that are formed in work facilities.

This principle is consistent with international labour standards, in particular International Convention number 87 of 1948 on freedom of association, as article 2 of this Convention stipulates that workers and trade unions are entitled to form more than one trade union organization to defend their professional interests. Also, trade union pluralism destroys trade union monopoly, as it allows workers to choose their representative trade union organization, and creates competition among trade union organizations, as they compete to provide the best services for workers.

Trade union pluralism does not mean imposing diversity on workers and unions by force of law, but rather it is up to workers to choose between unity and diversity according to their interests. The international labour standards prohibit stipulating trade union unity through national legislation, as it must stipulate diversity and leave it up to the choice of workers. It is sufficient to refer here to some comparable laws, such as the UK law where legislation stipulates diversity but nonetheless workers chose trade union unity.

This also addresses the problem of trade union vacuum that occurs when a trade union organization is disbanded for any reason, whether through a voluntary disbanding by the approval of the General Assembly or by a final court ruling.

Which factors impede your government’s ability to take action on business and human rights?

Most important factor:

  • Lack of resources for enforcement, monitoring and prosecution

Significant factor:

  • Lack of understanding or awareness of business & human rights in government
  • Challenges of coordinating across government departments

Minor factor:

  • Opposition by economic interest groups or business associations
  • Concern about deterring foreign investment

Not a factor:

  • Opposition or lack of consensus within government
  • Other opposition by influential people or groups outside government
  • Political limitations imposed by foreign governments or multilateral institutions