Egyptian women have been contributing to the workforce since the beginning of history. Specific legislation has been set out by the Egyptian legislator to protect women’s rights within the workplace, in particular, to combat discrimination as well as ensure pay equity and maternity protection. This article sets out to outline the rights of working women in Egypt as well as explain the remedies available in cases of potential violations. We should start by delineating the Egyptian Constitution’s articles on this front. Following these articles, we will delve into the specific areas dealing with women’s rights in the workplace in Egypt.
Egyptian Constitution Article (11): The place of Women, Motherhood and Childhood
The state commits to achieving equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
The state commits to taking the necessary measures to ensure appropriate representation of women in the houses of parliament, in the manner specified by law. It grants women the right to hold public posts and high management posts in the state, and to appointment in judicial bodies and entities without discrimination.
The state commits to the protection of women against all forms of violence, and ensures women empowerment to reconcile the duties of a woman toward her family and her work requirements.
The state ensures care and protection and care for motherhood and childhood, and for breadwinning, and elderly women, and women most in need.
Egyptian Constitution Article (53): Equality in public rights and duties
Citizens are equal before the law, possess equal rights and public duties, and may not be discriminated against on the basis of religion, belief, sex, origin, race, color, language, disability, social class, political or geographical affiliation, or for any other reason.
Discrimination and incitement to hate are crimes punishable by law.
The state shall take all necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination, and the law shall regulate the establishment of an independent commission for this purpose.
1. Gender Equality & Non-Discrimination:
In 2011, following the 25th of January Revolution, the Supreme Council of Armed forces legislated law No. 126 adding article (161) bis to the criminal code criminalizing discrimination on the basis of gender, origin, language, religion, or creed which wastes the principles of equal opportunity or social justice, or causes a disturbance of public peace. Penalties were ranging between a fine of EGP 30,000 to EGP 50,000 and/or jail for up to three (3) years. With an aggravating circumstance if committed by a public official or public employee or any person charged with a public service, making it a fine of at least EGP 50,000 and a maximum of EGP100,000 and/or a jail sentence for no less than three (3) months and up to three (3) years.
Accordingly, women who have faced discrimination on the basis of gender hindering the principles of equal opportunity or social justice, or causing a disturbance of public peace, have a right to report such incidents to the police, or to the public prosecution directly or to the National Council of Women. Following a final criminal judgment and upon request during the trial of the person/s who committed such acts, the person whom the discrimination was committed against has the right to an adequate civil compensation of the direct material and moral harm inflicted, covering the losses incurred and the profits lost.
2. Pay Equity:
As per article (35) of the Egyptian Labor Law prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of sex, origin, language or creed. In this regard,mployers who exercise wage discrimination are subject to fines between EGP 100 and EGP 500. Such fines are multiplied by the number of workers the crime occurred against and are doubled in cases of recurrence. Also, following a final criminal judgement of the fine, workers who faced wage discrimination are entitled to a civil compensation of direct material and moral harm inflicted, covering the losses incurred and the profits lost.
3. Maternity Protection:
Women who have worked for ten (10) months with one or more employers have a right to a 90-day maternity leave with full pay, before and after delivery providing that she submits a medical certificate indicating the approximate delivery date. Further, women may not be required to work for (45) days after delivering their child. Moreover, women are entitled to this maternity leave twice during their career.
However, the employer has the right to deprive her or her compensation or recover the amount paid to her if it is proven that she has worked with a different employer during such a leave. Furthermore, disciplinary impeachment may occur due to such an infringement, but her employment may not be otherwise terminated.
4. Right to Breastfeed:
For the (24) months following childbirth, new mothers have the right to breastfeed for at least half an hour twice a day, which may be combined into one (1) hour. This hour shall count as a working hour without any wage reduction.
5. Right to Childcare Leave:
Female workers in an establishment of fifty (50) or more workers have a right to childcare leave for up to two (2) years without pay, twice during her career.
6. Right to A Nursery:
Employers with establishments having more than one-hundred (100) women workers must establish a nursery at the place of work. If the number of women workers is less than one-hundred (100), then the employer must co-operate with neighboring establishments to provide nursery services to their workers’ children or to subscribe with the closest nursery possible in exchange for 5% of the female workers’ salary for the first child and 4% for a second child.
7. Right to Awareness:
Employers who have five (5) female workers or more must put up a copy of the women’s employment system within the place of work or place of workers’ gatherings.
8. Right to Terminate Employment Contract:
Women have a right to terminate their employment contract without prejudice to their rights within the labor or social insurance laws due to their marriage, pregnancy or childbirth within three (3) months of concluding the marriage contact, the date of pregnancy or date of childbirth.
9. Penalties and Compensation:
Employers who violate the above provisions are subject to fines between EGP 100 and EGP 200, with the exception of wage discrimination which is subject to a fine between EGP 100 and EGP 500. Such fines are multiplied by the number of workers the crime occurred against and are doubled in cases of recurrence. Women may report such incidents to the police, or to the public prosecution or to the National Council of Women.
Although the abovementioned fines are of a relatively petty value, women whose rights have been infringed may request a contractual compensation at the labor court circuits in addition to civil compensation for direct material and moral harm inflicted based on the final criminal judgment of the act committed by the employer.
In light of the above, we would like to note the following concluding remarks:
- The Egyptian Constitution sets out the status of women and the equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. The Constitution further obliges the State to ensure women’s empowerment in reconciling with her work and family duties and sets out to protect the rights of mothers.
- Discrimination that hinders the principles of equal opportunity, social justice or disturbs public peace is a crime punishable by law with strict penalties.
- The Egyptian Labor law ensures equal pay for equal work for women.
- Egyptian mothers in the labor force have a right to two (2) paid maternity leave, a right to two (2) unpaid childcare leaves, a right to breastfeed and a right to a nursery for their children.
- Establishments of five (5) women workers must make their employees aware of their rights by posting the women’s employment system in a visible place.
- Violations of the above obligations are subject to criminal penalties, contractual remedies, and civil compensations.