Pakistan is a signatory to The International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions. However, employment laws – and their implementation – have a long way to go in terms of ensuring wage parity and safe working conditions, as well providing improved compensation packages.
The four areas that warrant immediate attention include:
Employment of children. The Employment of Children Act took effect in 1991 which prohibited under-age children from being employed or performing functions considered hazardous. However, factories continue to employ young children at low wages, with no health and safety provisions in place. A focus on implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to improve these working conditions is needed urgently.
Employment of women. There is a dearth of legal protection governing women’s employment rights. They are mostly involved in low-wage/low-productivity occupations and the wage differentials between genders is a chronic problem. A specific law on equal pay, a revision of the Maternity Benefits Ordinance (making employers responsible for payment of maternity leave wages) and an active implementation of The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, promulgated in 2010, is required.
Old-age employees’ benefits. While the Employees’ Old-age Benefits Act (1976) and the Provincial Social Security Ordinance (1965) recommend pensions for retirees, invalids, widows and the disabled, the private sector is not bound by these regulations. Amendments to the Social Security Employees Ordinance that provide free medical facilities to retired workers and their families, raise pensions from Rs 5,200 to Rs 15,000 per month under the Old Age Employees Benefit Ordinance, and provide housing colonies for industrial workers are needed.
Workers’ safety. Since the Factories Act was executed in 1934 to limit working hours, ensure safe working conditions (particularly for those employed in the cotton and mining industries) and provide medical care and insurance, there has been no comprehensive legislation to ensure workers’ safety. The only addition was that of the Shops and Establishment Ordinance in 1969 that provided legal cover and protection to those employed in retail.
– M.J. Hussain
The writer is an international HR consultant.
First published in the DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on August 14, 2016.