Gunesh Bakgalova, Pitt Law LLM '09, compares "right to rest" laws in her native Turkmenistan with American labor regulation:
When I came to the United States I was very surprised to hear that employers are not required to give employees paid vacations, or to include paid leave in employment contracts. The so-called "Right to Rest" grants employees the right to paid vacation and leave, and is one of the Human Rights proclaimed in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Turkmenistan, this right is guaranteed by the Constitution, but in the US, the Family Medical Leave Act only requires that certain employers grant employees up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave for births, adoptions, and medical issues.
The US government is expanding the applicability of the Act, but only in a limited capacity. As of January 2009, the Act also permits 26 weeks of unpaid leave for certain employees to care for injured family members in the US Armed Forces. Despite this expansion, the Act continues to apply only to certain types of employers. Furthermore, it does not require those employers to grant paid leave.
In Turkmenistan, all employers are required to grant paid leave, and thus all employees are covered by our legislation. Furthermore, as employees, we are guaranteed not only this Right to Rest, but three specific types of paid leave: (1) main annual leave, (2) additional leave, and (3) social leave.
Main annual leave
Employees automatically receive paid annual leave of 24 calendar days per year. A longer vacation is granted to teachers, professors, and disabled persons, who receive 35 calendar days per year of paid annual leave.
In certain circumstances, employees can receive extended paid leave in addition to their main annual leave. First, annual leave can be extended up to 15 additional calendar days if employees work in harmful or dangerous conditions. Second, when a couple gets married, they can choose two family members who will get an additional leave of ten days each for their wedding. Finally, additional leave of ten days can also be granted to two close relatives of a deceased person for the person's burial and commemoration.
Women in Turkmenistan receive 112 calendar days of social leave for pregnancy and child birth, 56 days prior to and 56 days after childbirth. If the mother or child experiences medical complications, the mother's leave can be extended up to 16 calendar days. Additionally, if the woman has multiple births, then maternity leave is extended by 40 days for a total of 152 calendar days. Social leave is unique because it not only grants additional paid days of leave, but allows mothers to extend their time off after their paid leave has ended. After paid social leave, the employee-mother can take unpaid social leave until the child reaches three years old. She has the right to return to work at any time, and her position will be kept open until the child reaches three years old.
These specific provisions, now required by law, stem from cultural expectations and the common practice of providing all employees in Turkmenistan with paid leave. The Right to Rest was legally granted to citizens of Turkmenistan over 70 years ago under the 1936 Constitution of the U.S.S.R. After Turkmenistan gained independence from the U.S.S.R. in 1991, the general Right to Rest was granted under Article 32 of the 1992 Constitution. Later, these specific requirements for main annual leave, additional leave, and social leave were adopted under the Turkmen Code of Labor Laws.
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