Bahrain has officially lifted its summer midday work ban. Starting today, workers labouring outdoors are no longer required to stop work from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm, despite the ongoing extreme temperatures and high humidity levels.
Like other Gulf States, Bahrain bans outdoor work during the summer midday hours each year. However, these bans are determined by fixed dates and times, rather than actual climate conditions. Bahrain offers the least protection against extreme heat in terms of the number of days it enforces the ban. While other Gulf states' bans span over three to four calendar months, Bahrain's ban only covers two months between July 1 to August 31.
Bahrain’s midday summer work ban law (Ministerial Order No. 3 of 2013) also only offers limited protection from extreme heat and humidity. It only mandates that workers refrain from working outdoors during ban hours, without addressing the need to provide appropriate shelter for resting workers. For example, there is no requirement for air-conditioned resting areas or air-conditioned transport to and back from accommodation. In practice, many employers in Bahrain only offer shaded huts near construction sites without air conditioning.
Despite officials' claims that the ban is effective in protecting workers, temperatures outside the banned months and midday hours remain extremely high, leaving migrants vulnerable to hyperthermia and other heat-related illnesses. For example, in July this year (the second-hottest July ever recorded in the country), Bahrain logged apparent temperatures (real feel) of 50°C outside the four-hour ban period.
Temperatures and humidity in the months of June and September, before and after the ban period, are also extremely high. Today’s temperature is expected to reach a high of 44°C with 75% humidity during the peak heat hours.
For many years, civil societies, trade unions, and physicians have advocated for extending the midday ban period to June and September. Occupational health and safety consultant Dr Maha Al Shehabi recently stated that “June this year was incredibly hot” and recommended that the annual summer outdoor work ban should be extended.
In 2019, two Bahraini MPs proposed for the summer midday work ban to be extended to cover the period from mid-June to mid-September. The MPs stated; “We see no reason why Bahrain can’t follow its neighbours. The temperatures are the same in most of the Gulf states.”
However, such proposals and advocacy have been unsuccessful as Bahrain’s Ministry of Labour and Social Development has repeatedly refused to extend the summer ban, reportedly due to “its implications for the private sector”.
Migrant-Rights.Org urges the Bahraini government to promptly broaden the midday summer ban to encompass both June and September while adopting a more precise approach based on the real-time actual Wet-Bulb Globe Temperature index, rather than relying on arbitrary calendar dates and hours.
Additionally, the Bahraini government should take measures to assess pollution and dust levels, in order to ensure that workers who face prolonged outdoor exposure operate within air quality parameters recommended by the World Health Organization. Importantly the ban must cover all workers who work outdoors without affecting their working rights and wages.
For more, read our previous report on this issue here.