Women and Safety in the Workplace

All about Women and Safety in the Workplace, Occupational Hazards and Women, Pregnancy, Safety, Health and Labour Laws in Zimbabwe, Women and Safety and more on Mywage Zimbabwe.

Background

Whilst the Labour Act in Zimbabwe applies to all employees other than the excluded groups, it has specific provisions that relate to women.

At a general level the Act imposes a statutory duty on the employer not to require any employee to work “under any conditions which are below those prescribed by law or by conventional practice of the occupation for the protection of such employees’ healthy and safety”. 

In other words, workers should not be required to work in conditions which are not decent or safe.

At a specific level, the Act empowers the Minister to make regulations to provide special conditions applicable to females and the restriction of the employment of pregnant women in specified hours and the rights and privileges of mother with suckling infants. Regrettably, the minister has not promulgated such regulations.

What exists are provisions in the Act that entitle breast-feeding mothers to take one hour a day to breast-feed their child up to a maximum of six months after giving birth.

Suggested Reforms 

The Act does not provide direct protection to women who may be pregnant when it comes to performance of certain tasks which endanger the health of the mother or unborn child.

It is therefore suggested that the following be considered as responses to the lack of protection of women in the workplace:

  • Prohibit the deployment of breast-feeding mothers in shift work before 8am and beyond 6pm.
  • Impose a duty on employers to provide adequate sanitary facilities including sanitary pads, cotton wool or towels for the purpose of menstruation or miscarriage.
  • Impose a duty to treat as an emergency any symptoms of miscarriage, premature delivery or any complications relating to pregnancy, and ensure the employee receives medical attention. 
  • Ensure that in situations where a female employee experiences severe period pains such as severe backache, a suitable work environment is provided for her, such as:
  • Being put on light duty 
  • Being afforded rest periods during work
  • The availabililty of appropriate medical attention
  • Being placed off duty. 

Occupational hazards and Women

There are several types of occupational hazards which are legally recognized in Zimbabwe.

These hazards can lead to different diseases and illness, including reproductive hazards.

There are a number of special work hazards specifically affect women: 

  • There are work hazards that arise from negative social attitudes and practices against women. For instance, scheduling women to work at night might expose them to assaults, including rape, whilst women frequently suffer sexual harassment by their male superiors,.
  • There are what may be categorized as hazards that women suffer because of pregnancy, menstruation or breast-feeding. For example, certain hazards in the workplace could negatively affect the mother and the unborn child leading to stillbirth or abnormal development of the child. 
  • Exposure to anesthetic gases, mercury, lead or radiation during pregnancy can lead to deformed babies or still birth in pregnant women.
  • Carrying heavy loads, spending long hours standing, exposure to vibrations and climbing stairs can trigger light to high blood pressure, back pain, and abnormal deliveries or low birth weights.
  • Exposure to pesticides may cause fatal abortion or deformities in babies.
  • Exposure to chemicals such as lead, mercury, vinyl chloride and certain pesticides, may result in the chemicals passing through breast milk.

Read more

Find out more about Decent Work in Zimbabwe.

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