Labour disputes in Bahrain are being fast-tracked after new legislation came into effect, which is helping reduce the backlog of cases in the kingdom’s courts, according to a top legal consultant.
Its articles regarding the private sector were discussed yesterday during a roundtable meeting, organised by the Bahrain Association of Banks at Kempinski Grand and Ixir Hotel, Bahrain City Centre.
“The new law has a specific time frame in matters related to labour disputes, where no solution is reached. This was not the case in the previous labour law,” said Qays H Zu’bi Attorneys and Legal Consultants partner Hatim Zu’bi.
“If mediation fails, a claim is filed at the labour and administrative office of the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry. The judge should conduct proceedings and take a decision within two months. This can be further extended by another two months, depending on the nature of the case.”
However, if no solution is reached or if both parties reject the office’s decision, the case will be referred to the High Civil Court as an “urgent” case, added Zu’bi.
He presented an independent view of the new law during the discussion with more than 40 members from leading banking and financial institutions.
“The judge has 30 days to come out with a verdict which will be considered final. A person can appeal against the verdict at the Cassation Court, but only if there is an error in application of the law,” he explained.
The new Labour Law was ratified by His Majesty King Hamad in July and Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan has been given six months to come up with by-laws to execute it.
It will replace the previous labour law for the private sector, which was implemented nearly 36 years ago. Employers who violate it will also face fines of up to BD500 ($1,308).
Zu’bi explained the new law covers domestic workers and includes employment terms, including annual leave and indemnity.
He also said the law stipulates proper disciplinary procedures in the case of a misdemeanour, which include issuing a written notice to an employee before any action is taken.
“The employer should launch an investigation within seven days and the employee is entitled to proper defence and appeal,” he added.
Under the new law, employees sacked unfairly would qualify for an entire year’s salary in compensation.
Meanwhile, employers who violate the new Labour Law would face fines of BD200 to BD500.
Female private sector workers would get 60 days of maternity leave instead of the current 45. They would also be entitled to another 15 days leave without pay, if additional time was needed, in line with their counterparts in the government sector.
“The new law states that there will be no discrimination in salaries based on gender and religion,” added Zu’bi. “In addition, companies will have to pay penalties for late payment of wages at the rate of six per cent per annum.”
Under the new law, employees would be granted sick leave of up to 15 days with pay, 20 additional days with half pay and 20 more days without pay.
Zu’bi further said new job contracts signed by staff after September 3 would have to be updated to include benefits granted under the new legislation. “This new law has a modern take on labour relations and is compliant with standards of best international labour practices,” he said.
The consultant pointed out that some areas of the law were still not clear – such as the issue of calendar days or working days used in calculation of leaves, indemnity and other purposes.