The Senate, which has passed 245 articles out of a total of 267 over the last four weeks, met on Sunday to discuss and approve the remaining 22 articles.
Bahaa El-Din Abu Shoqa — the Senate’s deputy speaker and leader of the liberal-oriented Wafd Party — said that “the final draft, as approved by the Senate, will be referred to the House of Representatives for final discussion and finally voted on as per the constitutional rules and principles.”
Abu Shoqa described the new Labour Law as a progressive step because not only does it tackle the shortcomings of the current law (12/2003), but it also aims to streamline work conditions.
“It was important that Egypt draft a new Labour Law that can be in line with the country’s 2014 constitution and operate in tandem with the new rules instituted by the Supreme Constitutional Court and the new conventions of the International Labour Organisation,” said Abu Shoqa.
“Not to mention that many of the current Labour Law’s articles are not harmonious with a number of other laws, particularly those regulating child labour and social insurance and pensions.”
As a result, there is a pressing need to issue a new labour law to reflect the changing economic and labour conditions in Egypt and the outside world and create a new balanced relationship between employees and employers, he said.
A report by the Senate’s Energy, Environment, and Labour Force Committee explained that the new 267-article law covers various major issues, such as child labour, women in the workplace, maternity leaves, strikes, working hours, minimum and maximum wages, automatic dismissal of workers, and labour lawsuits.
On Sunday, the Senate also approved an article that allows working fathers one day of paid “paternity leave” to care for their newly born baby.
The initial proposal — which was submitted by Senator Mohamed Farid — called for working fathers to receive seven days of paternity leave starting from their babies’ birth date.
The proposal, however, was rejected by Minister of Manpower Mohamed Saafan and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Alaa El-Din Fouad, who both insisted that one day would be sufficient and would be provided once a father presents their baby’s birth certificate.
It is worth mentioning that article 50 of the draft Labour Law states that women are entitled to four months of paid maternity leave — including the period preceding and following the delivery — with the stipulation that such a period would not be less than 45 days on the condition that she presents a medical certificate indicating the likely date of delivery.
The article adds women shall not be granted paid maternity leave more than three times throughout their careers.
The Senate also approved on Sunday an article stipulating that employers who fail to submit a statement detailing the total number of workers under their employer along with the total number of disabled people working for them to the concerned administrative agency shall face a fine of no less than EGP 100,000 and no more than EGP 300,000.
The Senate also approved that article 253 of the law be amended upon a proposal by Senator Alaa Mostafa. The amendment states that those who have forced workers to work without pay shall be fined an amount of no less than EGP 20,000 and no more than EGP 50,000.
The new Labour Law states that a Higher Council for Planning and Employing Labour Forces shall be set up to take charge of drawing up labour policies and establishing an assistance fund for seasonal workers.
Abdel-Khalek Ayad — the chairman of the Senate’s Energy, Environment, and Labour Force Committee — said the draft labour law was reviewed for four months, with the committee holding hearing sessions involving an array of labour experts.
According to Ayad, the new law strikes a balance between the interests of employers and potential investors and those of workers. Reacting to concerns the legislation would make it easier to lay-off employees, Ayad insisted the draft contains no provision for the “automatic dismissal of workers.”
“The new Labour Law aims to regulate the relationship between employers and workers and includes rules that can be used to settle differences between them,” said Ayad.
“The law clearly states that a worker can be dismissed only upon a final judicial order from a labour court,” and makes it harder for employers to fire staff suffering from illness. It does, however, facilitate the firing of workers convicted of a felony.
Minister Saafan said that “the new Labour Law was drafted to reflect the fact that 80 percent of Egypt’s 30 million workforce are now employed in the private sector.”
In drafting the new Labour Law, Saafan continued, the government was keen to take the opinions of the International Labour Organisation into account. “We also tried our best to ensure the Labour Law complements the foreign agreements and conventions to which Egypt is a signatory,” he added.
The Senate also approved Article 204 of the law, which guarantees workers’ right to strike peacefully as long as other avenues to settle a labour dispute have been followed.
Article 205 states that workers intending to organise a peaceful strike should notify the concerned administrative department ten days ahead, indicating the reasons behind the strike and its duration.
Articles 206 and 207 state that workers cannot strike to amend a national labour agreement if they are employed in sectors serving national security interests or by institutions providing basic services to citizens, as determined by the prime minister.
The Senate also approved Article 58, which bans the employment of children below 18 years of age, and Article 60, which allows children within the same age bracket to receive training for a maximum of six hours a day.