Filing of a case in the Labour Court in Bangladesh

Worker and non-worker distinction

Who can be sued?

Bangladesh Labor Act 2006, the very important legislation governing the rights of worker and conditions of their service in Bangladesh, applies to a service-holder who qualifies as a 'worker'. The Act defines 'worker’ in section 2(65) as-

"any person including an apprentice employed in any establishment or industry, either directly or through a contractor, in whichever name it is referred to, to do any skilled, unskilled, manual, technical, trade promotion or clerical work for hire or reward, whether the terms of employment be expressed or implied, but does not include a person employed mainly in a managerial, supervisory officer or administrative capacity.

​Thus, a person who is engaged in a managerial, supervisory or administrative role is not a 'worker' and cannot invoke the Labor Act.

What is a managerial, supervisory or administrative role?

A person occupies a supervisory role under Rule 2(g) of the Bangladesh Labor Rules 2015 if the person 'deriving powers in writing from employer or managing authorities, who under powers so derived, provides or supervises the objectives, regulations of work, implementation of control, evaluation or review of work, directing the workers, in connection with an activity or service of a section of a factory or establishment.​' On the other hand, Rule 2(j) clarifies that ‘Person employed in Administrative or Managerial capacity’ derives powers in writing from employer or managing authorities, and is employed for approving or controlling the expenses of the establishment and the recruitment, allocation of wages and benefits, termination or removal from services, paying out the final settlement of the workers or employees of the factory or establishment.

Understanding the difference between worker and non-worker in practice

The designation is surely not the decisive factor in distinguishing a worker from a non-worker. We generally advise employers to assess the job description in order to find out whether a particular employee is worker or non-worker.

The description of work given in the appointment letter or the job role could be used as the reference point to distinguish between worker and non-worker. If a person is a 'non-worker', his rights and terms of service will be governed by his employment contract, and in case there has been a breach, the employee can obtain redress by filing of a suit for declaration in the civil court. A person who is a 'worker' can file a case in the Labor Court for securing his rights, including for non-payment of wages and other benefits, unfair dismissal or termination, transfer, illegal retrenchment or seek compensation for personal injuries sustained in the workplace. For example, section 33 of the Act provides that: “Any worker, including a worker who has been laid-off, retrenched, discharged, dismissed, removed, or otherwise severance from employment, who has grievance in respect of any matter covered under chapter II, and intends to seek redress thereof under this section, shall forward his grievance to his employer, in writing, by registered post within thirty days of being informed of the cause of such grievance.”​ Section 33(3) adds further that if the employer fails to give a decision or if the worker is dissatisfied with such decision, he may make a complain in writing to the Labour court.​ The Labor Rules supplements the Act by stating that such complaint to the Labour court must be made in the Form- 14.​

Labour Court and Labour Appellate Court

Labor Court, being a specialized court, is equipped to address the issues of workers for efficiently, and more often, the employer against whom a case has been filed compromises the case at an early stage. There is no court fee for filing of a case in the Labor Court and the proceedings are less formal. Any decision, award or judgment of the Labor Court can be challenged in the Labor Appellate Tribunal in Dhaka. The Labor Court can pass an ad-interim order to prevent the purpose or object of the case being frustrated. The litigants often complain of delay in disposal of cases by the Labor Court. While this is a common phenomenon in the judicial system of the country, but still it is an effective forum for redress for workers.

To download Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, please click here.

In the following video, we have discussed the rights of a worker in Bangladesh under the labor law.