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Turkey: Legislation Adopted on Part-Time Work Option for Working Mothers

(Feb. 19, 2016) Legislation amending Turkey’s labor laws, adopted by the Grand National Assembly (the Turkish parliament), creates flexible work options. Under the new provisions, “working mothers with young children will be able to work part-time” by permitting “rented workers” (i.e., contract workers), whose employment contracts will end when the mothers go back to work, to fill the resulting work gap created.  (Hacer Boyacioglu, Regulation for Working Mothers Creates Debate in Turkey, HÜRRIYET DAILY NEWS (Jan. 30, 2016).) The legislation amends the Labor Law and the Turkish Employment Agency Law.  (Is Kanunu ile Türkiye Is Kurumu Kanunu’nda Degisiklik Yapilmasina dair Kanun Tasarisi [Bill on Law on Amending the Labor Law and the Turkish Employment Agency Law] (Feb. 8, 2016), Grand National Assembly of the Republic of Turkey website (scroll down past p. 22 to view text of the draft legislation).)

Under the new provisions, a worker can take unpaid leave for half of her regular work time for a 60-day period following the end of maternity leave after the birth of her first child; that period is extended to 120 days for the second birth and 180 days for the third. Those workers who use this benefit cannot use breastfeeding leave.  (Boyacioglu, supra.)  Under Turkish Labor Law, a nursing mother is allowed one and a half hours per workday to breastfeed her child under the age of one.  (Breastfeeding Break, TURKISH LABOR LAW (Oct. 7, 2015); Is Kanunu [Labor Law] (May 22, 2003, as last amended effective Feb. 10, 2016), Law No. 4857, art. 74, MEVZUAT.) Until a child begins primary education, one of the parents will have the option to work part-time. However, if the spouse of the employee who is eligible to work part-time is unemployed, the employee is not entitled to take advantage of the flexible work option.  (Boyacioglu, supra; Is Kanunu, art. 13.)

The new legislation was also drafted in conformity with the European Union Directive on Temporary Agency Work (2008/104/EC).  (Is Kanunu Tasarisi TBMM’de [Labor Law Bill in Parliament], VATAN (Feb. 8, 2016); Working Conditions – Temporary Agency Workers, European Commission website (last visited Feb. 19, 2016) (scroll down to hyperlink for the Directive); see also Türkiye Is Kurumu Kanunu [Turkish Employment Agency Law] (June 25, 2003, as last amended effective Oct. 10, 2013), Law No. 4903, MEVZUAT.)

Reactions to the Legislation

After various parties in Turkey’s job market voiced concern about how effective the new rules would be in the private sector, the government decided to prepare a by-law setting forth the sectors or businesses in which the part-time option would be available, at least for the near future. (Boyacioglu, supra.)  Ergun Atalay, head of the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions, noted that union members feared the legislation would be an obstacle for women trying to find employment and expressed the view that under the rented worker system “the right to work part-time for mainly working mothers can be compensated only through this mechanism,” which could be applied to “cleaning, agriculture or patient care for a short time, but cannot be applicable in other jobs.”  (Id.)

By contrast, Sema Ramazanoglu, Minister of Family and Social Policies Minister, characterized the system “as a ‘magnificent’ arrangement which did not exist in European countries” and as “a great option for women, not just for those who want to raise their children but who want to continue their studies, or hobbies, etc.” (Id.)  She contended that the flexible work option would increase female employment “as other women will be employed to replace those using this option.”  (Id.)  Nevertheless, the Minister acknowledged concerns about the system’s possible disadvantage for women “especially in the private sector, as employers would prefer to hire male full-time workers.”  If that kind of resistance occurs, she stated, the government might impose sanctions on the private sector employers.  (Id.)