This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, 'Legal Counsel', which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies.
I am a resident of Dhaka. In my locality there are several motor workshops, garages, welding factories and construction sites. I have noticed that majority of the workers working in these places are kids, of 10-14 years. Moreover, the working conditions and the nature of work in my opinion are very dangerous and risky even for an adult, let alone for such kids. This is something that is not done behind closed doors rather the same is clearly visible by all. I wonder is it the absence of any law or other barbaric mentality that is responsible.
I would like to thank you for raising concerns regarding such an important issue. The issue of child labour has been a topic of serious concern.
In Bangladesh, laws regulating the employment of adolescents and prohibition of child labour have been codified under the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (BLA) (and its subsequent amendments) in conjunction with the Bangladesh Labour Rules 2015 (BLR). The Government has also introduced National Child Labour Elimination Policy 2010 to make meaningful changes in the lives of the children by withdrawing them from all forms of hazardous child labour.
As per section 2(8) of BLA an adolescent means a person who is between the age of 14 to 18 years, and anyone below the age of 14 years is deemed to be a child as per section 2(63) of BLA. Under section 34 no child (below the age of 14) shall be employed or permitted to work in any occupation or establishment. However, as provided under section 44 a child who has completed 12 years of age, may be employed in such a light work which is not dangerous to his health and development or shall not interfere with his education. In light of such, it is submitted that labour by the children, who are between the age of 12 and 14 years in certain circumstances are allowed. The laws related to engaging adolescent has to be followed.
On the other hand, under sections 34, 36 and 37 an adolescent may be employed if he has a certificate of fitness provided by a registered practitioner and that he carries a token with reference to such certificate. As per sections 39 and 40 no adolescent shall be employed in relation to any machinery while in motion or to work between moving part or between the fixed and moving parts of such machinery. Additionally, no adolescent shall work at any machine unless he has been fully instructed, trained and adequately supervised. Such prohibition also extends to underground or underwater work. An adolescent shall only be engaged in light work not endangering health or interfering with his education. The Government may from time to time publish lists of dangerous work in which the adolescents cannot be engaged.
As per section 41, no adolescent shall be allowed to work in any factory or mine for more than 5 hours in any day and 30 hours in a week and including overtime such shall not exceed 36 hours in a week. For any other establishment, he shall not work more than 7 hours in a day and 42 hours in a week and including overtime such shall not exceed 48 hours in a week. Furthermore, adolescents are not allowed to work between the hours of 7PM and 7AM.
The above discussion may be summarised as, any child below the age of 12 is prohibited from any sort of work. Child between the age of 12 to 14 under circumstances where the work does not hamper his health, safety and education may be allowed to engage in light work. Finally, adolescents between the age of 14 to below 18 are allowed to work under curtailed working hours and for such employment which are not hazardous as recognised by law and/or may be stipulated by the Government from time to time.
Despite such regulation, it is apparent that children of all ages are regularly seen to be working in dangerous and hazardous situations at various working environments. The society and the State seemed to have turned a blind eye towards them. These children are also encouraged by their families to take up such dangerous work and leave their schools in order to put in extra hours in the hopes of earing extra pay. I would also like to point out that domestic workers are not regulated by BLA and majority of such workers are children who are carrying works that are not suitable to children of that age. Time has really come when we all shall act to stop illegal child labour.
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