There is no national private-sector minimum wage. A standardized government pay scale covers public sector workers, with a set minimum of 300 dinars ($810) per month. Citizens who earned less received a government stipend to offset the difference. There is no minimum wage for foreign workers in the public sector, although the government issued “guidelines” advising employers in the public and private sectors to pay a minimum of 150 dinars per month ($405). There was no official poverty level.
Subject to the provisions of the private sector law, a worker may not be employed for more than 48 hours per week. Muslim workers may not be employed during the month of Ramadan for more than six hours per day or 36 hours per week. The standard workday is eight hours, with a maximum of 10 hours allowed. Overtime rates are time-and-a-quarter during the day and time-and-a-half during the evening. It is mandatory for workers to receive 24 consecutive hours off per week, and the day set for weekly rest is Friday. If a worker is required to work on a mandatory rest day, employers will pay the worker at time-and-a-half. A worker may not work on mandatory rest days for two consecutive weeks without personal written consent.
The Ministry of Labor sets occupational safety and health standards. The labor law and relevant protections apply to citizens and noncitizens alike, with the exception of domestic workers. The revised labor law improved the legal situation for many workers as it pertains to access to contracts and additional holidays, although it excludes domestic workers from the majority of protections.
The Labor Ministry is responsible for enforcing the labor law and mandating acceptable conditions of work. During the year the government employed 24 inspectors. The ministry enforced occupational safety and health standards; it also used a team of eight engineers from multiple specialties primarily to investigate risks and standards at construction sites, which were the vast majority of worksites.
Several circumstances triggered inspections: a complaint made to the ministry; notification of a new worksite made to the ministry; a news article about a new worksite; or when an inspector discovered a new worksite in an assigned geographic area.
Inspectors have the authority to levy fines and close worksites if employers do not improve conditions by specified deadlines. Penalties for violators range from 500 dinars ($1,350) to 1,000 dinars ($2,700) per violation or per worker affected, or both, as determined by a judge. Additionally, a judge may also sentence violators to a minimum of three months in prison. For repeat violators the court may double the penalties. The ministry reported an unspecified number of violators were serving sentences related to labor condition violations during the year.
Despite the improvements NGOs feared resources for enforcement of the laws remained inadequate for the number of worksites and workers, that many worksites would not be inspected, and that the regulations would not necessarily deter violations.
A ministerial decree prohibits outdoor work between noon and 4 p.m. during July and August. Authorities enforced the ban among large firms, but according to local sources, violations were common among smaller businesses. After inspecting 19,597 work sites, the Ministry of Labor reported 98.1 percent of inspected companies complied with regulations. The ministry reported 380 firms broke the law.
The government and courts generally worked to rectify abuses brought to their attention. Workers could lodge complaints with the Labor Ministry. The ministry reported it received 1,756 complaints, including joint complaints, brought during the year by 491 female and 1,545 male workers. Labor officials stated they resolved most cases through mediation. By law complaints that cannot be settled through arbitration must be referred to the court within 15 days. The vast majority of cases involving abused domestic workers did not reach the ministry or the public prosecutor.
The Ministry of Labor reported there were more than 3,000 registered labor camps housing more than 140,000 workers in the country. It also reported, however, as many as 60 percent of workers were living in unregistered labor camps. Inspectors do not have the right to enter private buildings to inspect conditions. The Labor Ministry advised the Ministry of Municipalities and the Ministry of Housing when it received complaints of poor conditions in such housing.
On March 2, a fire in an unregistered labor camp killed five workers and displaced 80 others. The Labor Market Regulatory Authority reported the five workers were in the country without valid visas.
In 2013 a fire in a three-story building killed 13 workers and injured another nine. Investigators said the building’s 160 tenants occupied 27 rooms illegally built using wooden partitions.
The government continued to conduct workers’ rights awareness campaigns. It published pamphlets on foreign resident workers’ rights in several languages, provided manuals on these rights to local diplomatic missions, and operated a telephone hotline for victims. Additionally, the Ministry of Labor held several meetings in conjunction with concerned diplomatic missions to bring together workers to discuss issues in their native languages and provide materials that explained their rights in both the formal and informal economies. No new information was available at the end of the year.
Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health standards were common in sectors employing foreign workers, such as construction, automotive repair, and domestic service. Unskilled foreign workers, mostly from South and Southeast Asia, were approximately 60 percent of the total workforce (76 percent of the private-sector workforce). These workers were also vulnerable to dangerous or exploitive working conditions. According to NGOs workplace safety inspection and compliance were substandard.
A 2009 study by the governmental Labor Market Regulatory Authority found 65 percent of foreign workers had not seen their employment contracts and 89 percent were unaware of their terms of employment. While the study was not renewed, local sources confirmed lack of awareness of terms of employment remained a problem. Some foreign workers arrived in the country at the invitation of an employer who sponsored their visas, but then switched jobs. Some of these workers continued to pay a portion of their salaries to their former employer who continued to be legally responsible for their visas.
The labor law does not fully protect domestic workers, and this group was particularly vulnerable to exploitation. In 2012 the government amended the labor law to expand the rights of domestic employees, who had not been covered under the previous law. The labor law requires domestic employees to be employed under “clear contractual terms” and provides for penalties for violators. The amendments, however, do not accord domestic employees all of the rights the law provides to other private-sector workers, including limits on daily and weekly working hours and weekly days off.
There were credible reports employers forced many of the country’s 70,000 domestic workers, most of them women, to work 12- to 16-hour days and surrender their identity documents to employers. Employers permitted very little time off, left them malnourished, and subjected them to verbal and physical abuse, including sexual molestation and rape. Reports of employers and recruitment agents beating or sexually abusing foreign women working in domestic positions were common. The press, embassies, and police received numerous reports of abuse.
The vast majority of cases involving abused domestic workers did not reach the Ministry of Labor or the public prosecutor for a variety of reasons. Most victims were too intimidated to sue their employers, although they had the right to do so. NGOs also reported the court system made it difficult for workers, who frequently did not have permanent home addresses in the country, to receive notices about their cases once they filed them. Additionally, if employees needing visa sponsorship file a case against their employers, they are unable to request a transfer of their sponsorship to a new employer. If employees stay in the country, they may be able to work for other employers unofficially. Once they depart the country, however, they will not be able to get a work visa with a new sponsor until the case with the previous employer is resolved.
During the year the MWPS shelter provided more than 120 female domestic workers with temporary housing and assistance with their cases. The majority of women in these cases sought assistance with unpaid wages and complaints of physical abuse. The MWPS continued to support victims who took their cases to court, but by law victims can receive only outstanding unpaid wages - no criminal damages are possible unless the victim has alleged a crime found in the criminal penal code has occurred, such as physical abuse or rape. While NGOs confirmed some cases were successful, compensation was meager.
The Ministry of Labor reported at least 16 workers died in workplace accidents during the year. The deaths were due to a combination of inadequate enforcement of standards, blatant violations of standards, inadequate safety procedures, worker ignorance of those procedures, and inadequate safety standards for equipment. According to NGO sources, most accidents were in the construction sector, which employed more Bangladeshis and Pakistanis than other nationalities.
On August 7, two Bangladeshi workers died at their job site when a crane carrying a five-ton piece of concrete knocked a stack of concrete blocks onto the victims.
The MWPS noted suicide attempts were common among Indian workers, but the media underreported them.
Conditions in the many unregistered or illegal worker camps were often poor. Safety of accommodations and quality of life for workers were problems that continued to be a major concern at source country embassies.
While some workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardizing their employment, the level of freedom workers enjoy directly relates to the type of work they do. Foreign laborers and domestic workers have the most difficulty removing themselves from dangerous situations and have the fewest protections from firing. Both sets of workers rely on employers for not just housing, but also food, clothing, and transportation. They are also the least equipped to file a complaint due to language barriers, level of education, and inability to produce a government issued identification card, which many employers retain.