Viet Nam News
Nguyễn Thi Hải Yến, an expert on female workers, speaks to Nông thôn Ngày nay (Countryside Today) newspaper about the proposed revision of the 2012 Labour Code.
Will you tell us about labour policies on female workers written in recent Labour Codes?
One of the principles that all law makers must pay attention to when compiling any law is protecting people in disadvantageous situations, particularly women. In labour relations, employers often put female workers in a disadvantaged position against male workers, particularly pregnant workers or those with young babies.
When the first Labour Code came into force in 1994, the law had an article regulating that breast feeding mothers would have 60 minutes a day to breast feed their baby. Meanwhile, during menstruation, a woman will have 30 minutes a day for sanitation.
The 2012 Labour Code devoted Chapter 10 to female workers and ensuring better conditions for them.
Do you think legal provisions on female workers have been implemented by employers?
Up to 90 per cent of enterprises have upheld the rule that during the first year after giving birth, women are allowed 60 minutes for breastfeeding. But the law on 30 minutes a day for sanitation is not strictly upheld. Employers have argued that for females who work in a supply chain, it is very difficult to arrange other workers to replace them. Also, many female workers don’t want to tell their boss to give them 30 minutes for sanitation.
The Việt Nam General Confederation of Labour has worked with labour unions in factories to ensure that Article 155 of the Labour Code on breast feeding mothers and female workers in general are strictly followed by employers.
Many employers have complained about the Article 155 of the Labour Code and urged for the article to be erased. How do you respond to their proposal?
In my opinion, in the context of global integration while the country’s economy faces many difficulties, employees should share difficulties with their employers. However, sharing difficulties doesn’t mean they have to give up on progress. The 60 minutes a day for breast feed baby and 30 minutes a day for sanitation has been observed in many countries. Such time arrangements have not seriously affected factory’s production. The only issue is female workers should inform their employers before hand so they can arrange a replacement.
What can be done to help enterprises arrange replacements so that it won’t disrupt production?
Article 7 in the Government Decree 85 gives detailed instruction on how to implement the Labour Code, particularly the article on breast feeding mothers and women’s menses days. So, it is up to employers and mothers to arrange breast feeding at their most convenient hours – either 60 minutes at once or two breaks of 30 minutes.
Besides the time slots for breastfeeding babies and sanitation, do you think the Labour Code should cover other issues?
Under Clause 2, in Article 155 of the Labour Code, in certain cases, employers can tell pregnant women to stop working. In my opinion, Clause 2 will become a challenge for both the employer and the employee as the two parties have to spend time and money to prove that the female employee is pregnant.
In addition, the revision of the 2015 Labour Code eliminates Article 123 on disciplining pregnant women. I object to such a decision. I don’t think that pregnant women would take advantage of the Article to violate labour disciplinary rules.
A proposed revision of the 2015 Labour Code would increase overtime working hours. I object to this as female workers will not have sufficient time to look after their families. This will, no doubt, affect the Vietnamese race and their families.
Will you please talk about the treatment of women written in the Criminal Code and the Labour Code?
Under the Criminal Code, a pregnant woman or one raising small children can enjoy amnesty or delay the court’s sentence. Compared with female prisoners, working women who may have broken labour disciplinary rules, their violations are much lighter than crimes committed by their peers. Please, just put yourself in the shoes of a pregnant woman, what do you want then? Be disciplined, dismissed and have no money to bring up your children? — VNS