Holidays extended till April 14 in Bangladesh – and Now?

Updates:

  • all garment factories to be closed, except for those producing masks and personal protection equipment (PPEs), according to the cabinet meeting sources

  • Police charge RMG workers, 2 crushed to death by truck

  • Releasing some prisoners amid fears of the coronavirus outbreak in crowded jails

  • Bangladesh Parliament to go into session on April 18

  • Prayers at all religious institutions suspended: devotees urged to pray at home instead

  • Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi restricts entry and exit to and from these cities

  • All shops other than pharmacies to close daily by 19:00 hrs

  • Strict enforcement by police with support of the army

  • Public transport on the road, rail, air and waterways suspended

  • General Holidays extended till April 14

As of 6 April 2020, the Government of Bangladesh has confirmed testing at least 2,914 samples among which there is a total of 123 confirmed and 71 active cases, 33 recoveries and 12 deaths reported in the country

The government of Bangladesh has issued a notification extending the General Holiday till April 14, initially announced on March 23, a 10-day holidays starting from 26th March amid coronavirus spreading risks in Bangladesh. All public transport on the road, rail, air and waterways will remain suspended until then. The police with support of the army is enforcing this lockdown strictly, unlike many other rules in Bangladesh usually.

According to the fresh gazette, emergency services such as power, water, gas, fire, cleanliness, telephone and internet services will remain beyond the purview of the holidays, alongside transportation of food, medical equipment, germicides, agricultural goods, fertiliser, industrial goods, and other essential products or daily necessities.

Kitchen markets, food shops, pharmacies and hospitals will remain open.

Offices may remain open for urgent and time critical work; pharmaceutical and export-oriented industries may be kept open if required, it further said.

Amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus, around one hundred readymade garment factories were opened in Savar and Ashulia of Gazipur, ignoring the call of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) for a shutdown. Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has strongly criticised those readymade garment factory owners as they put pressure on their workers to join workplaces after the first 10-days General Holidays announcement from March 26.

“Banks will remain open from 10:00 to 15:00 hrs during the government-extended general holidays while the transaction will be made between 10:00 and 13:00 hrs,” states a central bank circular.

What does this mean to businesses?

It is not really 100% clear under which circumstances and conditions the offices, pharmaceutical and export-oriented industries may be kept open and leaves room for interpretation of the urgency and requirements for the decision makers. It may well be the intention of the government to keep the flexibility for the business to define urgency and requirements to decide case by case as per urgency and necessity of the individual business.

Some of the most common questions, besides asking about our well-being,  we received in the last few days from our clients and partners, most of which are international Representative and Liaison Offices of various companies and organisations in Bangladesh, are:

  • whether the employees are obliged to attend the office if the management decides to keep it open, which according to the government notification, is possible in case of urgent or time-critical work
  • which consequences may be legal and justified to those who decline to attend the office and
  • whether their salary or annual leave may be deducted or can they be terminated in worst case etc.

Answers to those and related questions may not be difficult legally. Ethically and morally, however, it may not be so easy in this extra-ordinary situation because General Holiday in Bangladesh is a wide ranging holiday when usually nobody is obliged to attend office or perform duties. But this particular “holiday” at the most unusual time is all but normal when the government notification expressly excludes a few areas from strict enforcement of the “holidays” and in the case office, pharmaceutical and export-oriented industries makes it conditional leaving room for interpretation of the urgency and requirements.

Therefore, mutually agreed, most suitably arranged case by case assessed decisions seem to be most appropriate and fairer, in our opinion.