Work and Employment

Under Article 27 of the CRPD, the State is obligated to:

  • Recognize the right of PWDs to equal opportunities to work including to work freely and be accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to PWDS.
  • Safeguard and promote the realization of the right to work, including for those who acquire a disability during the course of employment.
  • Enable persons with disabilities to form trade unions and have effective access to general technical and vocational guidance programmes, placement services, career advancement options, vocational and continuing training; opportunities for self-employment and entrepreneurship [1].

Laws and Policies Promoting Disability Rights

The Disability Act provides for the right to employment in all government and non-governmental organizations and to benefits, pensions, maternity payment, compensation packages and other facilities in the event of a PWD not being able to continue employment, and prohibiting discrimination [2]. No such organization can refuse employment to a disabled person on the basis of discrimination, [3] or as long as that person has the capacity to perform in that position [4].

The Act sets out the duty of public and private organizations to identify positions within their organization suitable for an employee with disabilities; the duty to ensure employment and sole business opportunities, provide banking and commercial services on a priority basis and provide easy access to small loans and start up loans [5].

The Act establishes a National Disabled Welfare Coordination Committee and empowers it to create employment opportunities and maintain quotas in the public sector for persons with disabilities and for orphans in selected grades of public sector jobs [6].

The Government has increased the age limit for disabled candidates wishing to apply for a government job to 32 years [7].

Gaps in Laws and Policies

Existing laws continue to discriminate against and deprive PWDs of the right to employment.

Certain laws directly discriminate against PWDs for example those prohibiting their inclusion in Public Service above certain grades, or in the Judicial Services.

  • Schedule III of the Bangladesh Civil Service Rules, 1982 (BCS Rules) require candidates to have “good hearing in both ears”, to have hands and feet that are “well formed” and “developed with no congenital malformation or defect”, and to not suffer from any “squint or morbid condition of the eye”. Although the Disability Act has empowered the National Disabled Welfare Coordination Committee to maintain quotas in the public sector for persons with disabilities, the reservation of quota varying in government jobs depending on the grade of the job for people with disabilities. For example, a 1% quota of 1st class government jobs are reserved for candidates with disabilities. However, these quotas are still not being filled, [8] due to the lack of any proactive recruitment practices for disabled people [9].

Also, Schedule III of the Bangladesh Judicial Service Appointment Order, 2007 bars persons with disabilities from being eligible for employment in judicial services [10].

The absence of laws addressing discrimination limit opportunities for PWDs’ employment in the private sector.

  • There are no quotas required for employment of persons with disabilities in the private sector.
  • There are no specific remedies available if a private sector employer discriminates against any employee.
  • Under the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, a person who acquires a disability at work has no right to alternative employment. This Act states that where a person becomes disabled for any reason during the course of employment, s/he shall be relieved from the job and offered an appropriate compensation package instead [11]. This provision is in conflict with the rights established by the 2013 Disability Related Act.

There is very limited redress available for any person who becomes disabled at work.

  • The Labour Act [12] provides that an employee with a permanent disability is entitled to a compensation package of one lac twenty five thousand taka (approx. 1300 USD) while anyone incurring a temporary disability is entitled to compensation assessed for the period of their disablement or one year whichever is less. Thus the amount of compensation payable for the first two months will be the entire monthly wage, the amount of compensation for the next two months will be two thirds of the monthly wages and for the remaining months, it will be half of the monthly wages [13]. Neither sum is adequate in terms of covering the actual costs of livelihood, medical treatment and cost of dependents.

Survey Findings

Important government initiatives have taken place to fulfill disabled people’s right to work and employment.

  • The Ministry of Social Welfare supports Moitri Shilpo (a profit-making organization for persons with disabilities) which produces 5 types of mineral water and 86 types of plastic accessories [14].
  • The Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Mohila Technical Training Centre in Savar provides training on needlework to women with disabilities [15].
  • 125 women from various DPOs have also benefited from doing business using poultry, livestock and fisheries and another 55 women have benefited from other small scale businesses [16].
  • Various NGOs have assisted with referrals and securing employment for PWDs in the readymade garments sector (see for example, ADD’s Shiree Project, benefitting at least 225 people with disabilities through employment in garment manufacturing factories in Dhaka; [17] CRP securing such employment for 400 disabled women, and the Ahsania Mission in Dhaka for others). While greater opportunities exist, coordination opportunities and negotiation of contracts is a challenge.
  • Private companies producing toiletries and consumer products have also led the way in opening up positions for disabled persons. See for example Square Pharmaceuticals employing 82 disabled persons, while Keya Cosmetics Limited has provided employment to 1000 people with hearing disabilities. As a gesture of goodwill, the company pays out a monthly remuneration for disabled employees which is 2000 taka (26 USD) more than the salary received by non-disabled employees [18].

Through FGDS, we identified the following key concerns:

Misconception about PWDs and their efficiency: Common misconceptions that people with disabilities cannot work as effectively as others leads to their facing barriers at work including lack of cooperation and negative attitudes. During the recruitment process, employers generally do not consider their specific needs or make reasonable accommodation needed to fulfill their job responsibilities.

Fig1_WorkFig 1: What sort of discrimination is faced by PWDs re appointment, promotion, pension, holidays and other employment opportunities?

Discrimination faced by PWDs regarding appointment, salary etc: There is no proper implementation of Section 16 of the Disability Act related to right to employment leading to PWDs being discriminated at interviews and during job appointments. While the Constitution provides remedies for discrimination against public authorities, the non-implementation of Section 35 and Section 36 of the Disability Act prevents persons with disabilities from claiming a specific remedy against discrimination by private actors. .

Case Study 1: Courts Question Disability Discriminatory Laws re Public Sector: [19]

On 18 April, 2010, Shapan Chowkidar, a lawyer, who is visually impaired, along with Action on Disability and Development (ADD), Ain O Shalish Kendro (ASK) and the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) filed two writ petitions challenging Schedule 3 of the BCS Rules, which prohibits the recruitment of PWDs in the Civil Service, and Schedule III of the JCS Rules which prohibits this in the Judicial Service. The High Court on 20 March, 2012 allowed an application by Adv. Chowkider, to allow PWDs to sit for the 33th BCS examinations, and directed the Public Service Commission to ensure reasonable accommodation for them in the exam halls. Before this, The High Court issued a Rule Nisi on 08.06.2010 to show cause as to why certain provisions of the BCS Rules should not be declared to be unconstitutional to the extent that they are inconsistent with the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities to equality, equality of opportunity and the right to a profession. It also directed the respondents to show cause as to why they should not be directed to apply their discretionary powers and to perform their duties as prescribed by law to identify cadre posts within the Bangladesh Civil Service as appropriate for citizens with disabilities as well as to ensure the hiring of citizens with disabilities for these posts. Earlier on 25.04.2010, the Court directed the President and Secretary of the National Disability Welfare Committee to submit a report within thirty days on the steps taken to date implement their obligations under Section 6(2) and Schedule ‘Cha’ of the Disability Welfare Act, 2001.

Case Study 2: Disability based discrimination in employment case [20]

 

Md. Nurur Rahman, an engineer with a physical disability was denied appointment to the post of Assistant Manager (Mechanical) in the Bangladesh Gas Field Company Limited (BGFCL), filed a writ petition, along with Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) and BLAST, challenging the denial of appointment. Mr. Rahman had obtained his Secondary School Certificate (S.S.C) and Higher Secondary Certificate (H.S.C) with First Divisions in 1994 and 1996, respectively. Following errors in his medical treatment, he suffered from a physical disability beginning in the year 1999. He was admitted to the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Dhaka and obtained BSc in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in year 2004. He was appointed as an Upazilla Rural Development Officer in Bangladesh Rural Development Board; his responsibilities included regular field visits and the Civil Surgeon recording his physical disability noted that his physical condition would not be a barrier for discharging his responsibilities. He applied for the post with BGFCL, meeting all the eligibility criteria stated in the advertisement published in the Daily Ittefaq, was allowed to take part in both written and viva voce exams and was asked to undergo a physical examination. Following a medical checkup and a report by the internal doctor of the BGFCL that the petitioner was disabled, the petitioner was not asked to join. The petitioners sent a notice demanding justice to the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation and BGFCL. The Social Welfare Ministry (Disability Section) sent a letter to the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources to consider the Disability Welfare Act, 2001 regarding the petitioner’s disability as well as quotas under the Act but no step was taken.

he High Court issued a Rule Nisi on 9.4.2008 on the respondents to show cause why their refusal to appoint Mr. Rahman should not be declared to be without lawful authority and of no legal effect and why BGFCL should not be directed to appoint him. The case is still pending for hearing.

Case Study 3 : Discriminatory Reservation Case [21]

BLAST along with Muhammad Sarwar Hussain Khan, a person with a visual impairment, filed a writ petition challenging a circular issued by the Ministry of Establishment on 17.03.1997 amending the provision for quotas on direct employment in all classes of post of the services of Government (autonomous, semi-autonomous and corporations). The said amendment reserved 10% of posts for physically disabled persons only in respect to third and fourth class posts, while it had reserved posts for Muktijodhdhas, women, indigenous people, etc. in respect to all classes. There was thus no reservation for physically disabled persons in the first and second class posts.

The High Court issued a Rule Nisi on 12.07.1998 calling upon the Ministry of Establishment and the Ministry of Social Welfare to show cause why the impugned circular amending the reservations for persons with disabilities for direct employment in government services and failing to reserve any posts for them in respect of first and second class posts should not be declared to be arbitrary, discriminatory and without lawful authority.

Rule discharged on 01.02.2006.

Employees with disabilities tend to get paid less than others, particularly in manual or field based jobs.

Fig2_WorkFig 2: Do PWDS get paid the same wage as non-disabled workers?
Fig3_WorkFig 3: What are the reasons for PWDs not availing legal services when they are forced into labour or unlawfully terminated?

Harassment at work: Employees with disabilities commonly face bullying, harassment and misbehavior at work.

Difficulty in obtaining a job: Often quotas for PWDs are established regarding jobs which have advanced educational eligibility requirements. Even when PWDS meet these criteria and can apply for such jobs, they are not always offered the position. The recent study by Mollah pointed to a person having spent four years, and appeared in 16 interviews, qualifying in both the written and practical tests but still being rejected [22].

Accessibility issues: Most training institutes providing training and skills for specific vocations do not have facilities for people with disabilities. Most factories and offices are physically inaccessible to people with disabilities.

Fig4_WorkFig 4:Is accessibility ensured to PWDs in workplaces?
Fig5_WorkFig 5: As an alternative to working from the office premises, do PWDs get the opportunity to work from home using internet and e-communication facilities?

Lack of opportunities: Disabled people are usually not involved in disaster relief activities. They are often denied access to short term loans or employment which are provided to non-disabled people to help them regain financial independence after a disaster.

Non-rehabilitation of workers who have become disabled in the course of employment: Workers who become disabled due to workplace injury are rarely rehabilitated or provided training adapted to their needs. The compensation package offered under the Labour Act 2006, [23] is insufficient as it does not adequately cover medical expenses or the maintenance costs of dependents of the disabled worker.

Fig6_WorkFig 6: If an employee becomes disabled in the course of his employment and is unable to continue his employment due to his disability, then is he given further training instead of being terminated from his position?

Recommendations

  • Amend the Labour Act, 2006 in particular section 22(1) to ensure consistency with the Disability Rights Act, and to include provisions to set out the requirement for an effective quota system and make it applicable to all government and non-governmental organizations to ensure that employees with disabilities are not paid less due to their disability; clarify the legal consequences that an employer may face for breach, and increase the current inadequate compensation package of only 1,25,000 taka (approx.. 1600USD).
  • Rehabilitation of workers injured through training adapted to their capability, and provision of alternative employment instead of termination as a result of the disability.
  • Amend Schedule III of the BCS and JSC rules to remove discrimination related to employment of PWDs in the public sector and in the judiciary.
  • The Workplace environment must be tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities. The orientation and training at any workplace must include disability issues to ensure empathetic and sensitive behaviour from fellow colleagues of a disabled person. Workplaces must have Trade Unions and there must be arrangements in place to enable a disabled person to address his/her concerns in the event of facing harassment or any issues at work. The Disability Act and the Labour Act must include provisions that would detail how an employee or organization can make their working environment friendly for disabled workers and put in place strict measures to prevent misbehaviour and bullying of disabled employees in the workplace.
  • Increase employment opportunities for disabled people:
  • Establish a monitoring mechanism engaging civil society to identify if the 5 % quota for 1st and 2nd class government jobs is being fulfilled, and to ensure reasonable accommodation is made during recruitment
  • Establish quotas for people with disabilities applying for 3rd and 4th class government jobs
  • Create employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and especially for disabled women at governmental and non-governmental level.
  • Make reasonable accommodation for examinees with disabilities sitting exams as part of the job process (do you mean recruitment?) including giving additional time or option to appoint a writer/ scribe.
  • Provide free/ subsidized training including technical and vocational training to people with disabilities and involving private sector organizations. Allow trainees to access loans at affordable interest rates and to secure 0% down payment from state and private owned banks.
  • Provide access to loans on easy terms through institutions such as PKSF, SME Foundation state and private owned banks to facilitate small business /entrepreneurship among PWDs.
  • Public transport and accessibility: Schedule 5 of the Disability Act 2013 must be implemented so that all public transport have easy access/wheelchair access. In the meantime, the drivers and conductors of public transport must assist any disabled person to board a vehicle and failure to do so must be legally penalized. Stricter measures must be taken to ensure that 5% of the total number of seats in any form of public transport are reserved for people with disabilities. Seating arrangements in all public transport must be adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities.
  • Recruitment of persons with disabilities in the private sector: Provide support and encouragement to private companies to encourage employment of people with disabilities.
  • Raise awareness among employers by implementing Schedule 5 of the 2013 Disabilities Act to address misconceptions regarding disabled people not having capability to work, and to provide the right environment and facilities.
  • Ensure all employees are trained on empathetic behavior at work to eradicate misbehavior against employees with disabilities.

 

[1] Article 27 (Work and Employment): http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=287
[2] Section 16, Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013.
[3] Section 16 (2), Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013.
[4] Section 35 (1), Protection of rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013.
[5] Part 10, Schedule, Protection of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013.
[6] The Daily Star, (2013). Livelihoods for disabled people: Opportunities and challenges. [online] Available at: http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/livelihoods-for-disabled-people-opportunities-and-challenges-2/ [Accessed 18 Jan. 2015].
[7] Bangladesh Public Service Commission. Website: http://www.bpsc.gov.bd/platform/node/61.bpsc2012.pml
[8] Centre for Services and Information on Disability in association with Action Aid Bangladesh, (2002). Employment Situation of People with Disabilities in Bangladesh. [online] Dhaka, Bangladesh, pp.30-40. Available at: http://www.disabilityrightsfund.org/files/employment_situation_of_people_with_disabilities_in_bangladesh.pdf [Accessed 18 Jan. 2015].
[9] The Daily Star, (2013). Livelihoods for disabled people: Opportunities and challenges. [online] Available at: http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/livelihoods-for-disabled-people-opportunities-and-challenges-2/ [Accessed 18 Jan. 2015].
[10] Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust: http://www.blast.org.bd/issues/air/216
[11] Section 22(1), Labour Act, 2006 states that: a]ny worker may be discharged on the basis of physical or mental incapacity or continued ill health as certified by any registered medical practitioner”.
[12] Section 151, Labour Act, 2006.
[13] Section 151 (1)(c) Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 read with Schedule V appended to the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006, as amended 2013.
[14] The Daily Star, (2013). Livelihoods for disabled people: Opportunities and challenges. [online] Available at: http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/livelihoods-for-disabled-people-opportunities-and-challenges-2/ [Accessed 18 Jan. 2015].
[15] NGDO, NCDW AND BLAST, (2013). Meeting on the sharing of FGD findings. Producing the CRPD Shadow Report. Dhaka, Bangladesh, pp.8-9.
[16] NGDO, NCDW AND BLAST, (2013). Meeting on the sharing of FGD findings. Producing the CRPD Shadow Report. Dhaka, Bangladesh, pp.8-9.
[17] Please see the table at the annex on: Mapping of Prospective Employers for Young People with Disabilities. (2015). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Access Bangladesh Foundation.
[18] NGDO, NCDW AND BLAST, (2013). Meeting on the sharing of FGD findings. Producing the CRPD Shadow Report. Dhaka, Bangladesh, pp.8-9.
[19] BLAST and others v Bangladesh and others [‘PSC Disability Discrimination’ Case] Writ Petition No. 2932 of 2010 (High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh): http://www.blast.org.bd/issues/disabilityrights/217
[20] BLAST, ASK and others vs. Bangladesh and others [‘Disability Based Discrimination in Employment’ Case]Writ Petition No. 2652 of 2008: http://www.blast.org.bd/issues/disabilityrights/215
[21] BLAST and another vs. Bangladesh and others [‘Discriminatory Reservation’ Case]: Writ Petition No. 1783 of 1998: http://www.blast.org.bd/issues/disabilityrights/305
[22] Mollah (Study Consultant), A. (2015). Study on ” Mapping of Prospective Employers for Young People with Disabilities”: http://en.prothom-alo.com/bangladesh/news/58005/Persons-with-disability-being-discriminated-in
[23] Section 151, Labour Act, 2006.

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