Festival holidays for private-sector employees in Bangladesh
An employee's entitlement to festival holidays is an indispensable democratic right in any modern society. Such right finds its source in the very Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR 1948) where Article 24 of the Declaration stipulates that 'Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay". After the UDHR, many states of the world have inserted this right in their respective national constitutions. Accordingly, Bangladesh also follows the suit.
A festival holiday is not to be confused with any ordinary leave or holiday to be enjoyed by an employee, working either in public or private enterprise.
The term 'festival holiday' generally connotes a holiday-related to the observance of particular religious ceremonies, rites, rituals or even cultural events. Thus, in Bangladesh, the Muslim religious festivals like Eid-Ul-Fitr, Eid-Ul-Azhaetc, the Hindu religious festivals like Durga Puja, Jonmashtomi etc., the Buddha Purnima of the Buddhist community, Boro Din (Christmas) of the Christian community etc. call for celebrations as festival holidays. In Bangladesh, apart from the religious ceremonies, a celebration of a cultural event like Pahela Baisakh (the first day of the Bangla annual calendar) also allows the employees to enjoy the day as a festival holiday.
In Bangladesh, a private sector employee's right to enjoy his/her festival holidays is very explicitly enunciated in the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006. In this respect, Section 118 of the stated Act highlights the following rights concerning festival holidays. They are: (1) Every worker shall be allowed in a calendar year 11 (eleven) days of festival holiday with wages; (2) The employer shall fix the day and dates of such leave in such manner as may be prescribed by Rules; (3) A worker may be required to work on any festival holiday, but 2 (two) days compensatory holidays with wages and a substitute holiday shall be provided for him following the provisions of section 103.
Besides, the Rule 15 of Bangladesh Labour Rules (2015) expresses that every employer through joint bargaining with the representatives (if any) of the employees will fix the festival holidays of the succeeding year (not less than 11 days) before 31 December.
Scrutiny of the various rules concerning festival holidays as stipulated in the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 and Bangladesh Labour Rules (2015) reveal the fairness and justice with which such rules have been set up for the employees. The following reasons explain this.
First, the duration of the festival holidays for the employees is a fixed one amounting to 11 days per year. As a result, there arises no ground for any error or confusion in this respect. All dates are duly marked in the yearly calendar.
Second, all the dates for festival holidays are fixed as per the existing labour rules and regulations.
Third, in a workplace of certain types like utility services, medical service, fire service etc., where all the employees cannot be granted festival holidays all at a time, some of them may be required to stay at the job site to meet the emergency requirements. In such cases, these employees would be compensated later with a total of 3 holidays.
Fourth, the festival holidays are paid holidays. Deduction of payments for the holidays enjoyed is not permissible at all as per the Bangladesh Labour Law. Fifth, although the festival holidays in Bangladesh mostly follow the Gregorian calendar, due care is taken to adjust the religious festivals as per the Bangla and Hijri (Arabic) calendars.
The rules and regulations for festival holidays in Bangladesh have been set up with utmost concern for the employees. The Government looks upon the issue as one of the fundamental democratic rights of a citizen and all employees, irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, sex and age now enjoy festival holidays without any qualm.