1st May, also known as Labour Day or May Day is a day celebrated in as many as 80 countries around the world, as a day to honour and commemorate the contributions of the labour workforce. By several yardsticks, labour or workmen are considered an essential pillar of any sovereign economy. While the philosophy may differ from country to country, the main reason for celebrating Labour Day is to remember the erstwhile unfair treatment meted out to the working class and ensure that the current globally accepted working conditions, welfare benefits and workmen’s rights, are maintained. The first celebration of Labour Day in India took place in Chennai on May 1, 1923.
The Government of India has, over the years, enacted several beneficial labour welfare legislations to ensure the social and economic advancement of the country’s workforce, such as:
- Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952
- Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
- Employee State Insurance Act, 1948
- Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970
- Minimum Wages Act, 1948
- Payment of Wages Act, 1936
- Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923
- Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
- Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
As we celebrate May Day to spread awareness about the rights and opportunities of every working women and man, let us journey you through the key responsibilities on the part of Employers to ensure social and economic advancement of its workers / employees.
The major obligations on the part of the employers can be broadly divided into the following three categories:
A. Payment Obligations
B. Regulation of Working Hours
C. Occupational Health and Safety
A. Payment Obligations:
The basic relationship between an employer and employee is the remuneration / wages paid by the employer to his employee/s. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 requires employers to pay the applicable minimum wages to workers, positively by the 7th of every month in case of less than 1000 employees and by the 10th of every month in case of more than 1000 employees.
In fact, this responsibility on the part of the employers is not only limited to the employees directly employed by him but also stretches to the contract labourers, if the contractor fails to make the payment. As per the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, if the contractor fails to pay wages to the contract labourers, it becomes the responsibility of the principal employer to pay wages to such contract labourers.
An authorised representative of the principal employer must be present at the place and time of disbursement of wages to contract labourers by the contractor.
Apart from wages, the employer has to also discharge various other payment obligations which include:
- Deduction and deposit of the prescribed amount as provident fund from salary into the Provident Fund Account of the Employee
- Contribution under the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948.
- In case an employeesustains any personal injury due to any accident arising out of or in the course of employment, the employer has to pay compensation to such employee.
This responsibility of the employer is also extended to the contract employees engaged by him. The principal employer has the right to get indemnified by the contractor for such amount paid to the injured contract worker.
- For inter-state migrant workers, if the contractor fails to pay the displacement allowance at the time of recruitment; or the journey allowance for travelling from the place or residence of inter-State migrant workmento the place of work in another State, then the principal employer has to pay such displacement allowance (equal to fifty per cent of monthly wages or seventy-five rupees whichever higher) and journey allowance. The allowances paid by the principal employer may be recovered from the contractor either by deducting from any amount payable or as a debt payable by the contractor.
- As per the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, on employing more than 50 but less than 100 workers, the employer has to pay compensation to such workers, who have been retrenched or laid off.
- Besides the above-mentioned obligations, the employee also has to reimburse any expenses personally incurred by employees during the course of employment for any purpose of the employer’s business.
B. Regulation of Working Hours
In India, various labour Laws such as the Shops and Establishment Acts of different states, the Factories Act etc. regulate the working hours of employees employed in different sectors.
- In most of the states, employees cannot be required to work for more than 9 hours a day and 48 hours a week. Also, all commercial establishments are required to adhere to such opening and closing hours as the specific State Governments may, in public interest, prescribe.
[Note: Certain states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal etc. allow shops and commercial establishments to remain open 24 hours a day but with the stipulations on hours of rest and overtime payment].
- Every employee is entitled to a weekly day off. No deduction can be made to his wages on account of such day off.
Also, as per the Shops and Establishment Act and Rules or the Industrial Establishments (National and Festival Holidays) Act and Rules for the different states, employers are required to provide paid holiday to their employees on the different national holidays like Independence Day (15th August), Republic Day (26th January), Labour day (1st May) etc. and certain state specific festival holidays and Special holidays.
Under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, employers are bound to give paid holiday to employees, entitled to vote at an election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of a State, without deduction / abetment of wages.
- Women workers: Women employees should not be required to work between 7pm-6am.
Historically there were restrictions imposed on employing women during night shifts and they were only allowed to work during a fixed time. However, currently, some states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttaranchal, Assam etc. have allowed employment of women workers during night shifts. However, for employing women workers in night shifts, employers must take steps to ensure the safety and comfort of women:
- Written consent of the women employee/s who agree to work during night shift/s must be obtained before engaging them.
- In case women employees are required to work during night shifts, employers must provide proper pick-up and drop facilities to such employee/s. Further, such woman employee/s should not be the first one to be picked up or the last one to be dropped. Such transport facilities from the residence to the workplace and back should be provided free of cost and with adequate security;
- Proper measures have to be taken to ensure security of the women employees
- Sufficient rest rooms, latrines and washing facilities with adequate water supply have to be provided separately for women employees so as to secure their privacy;
C. Occupational Health and Safety
Employers are also required to ensure the health and safety of their employees while they are working in shops / establishments / factory etc.
- It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the work premises are in kept clean and in a workable condition. Such premises must be well-ventilated, have adequate lighting arrangements, precautions against fire, washroom facilities, clean drinking water arrangements etc.
- On reaching a certain threshold of employees, employers are required to provide the following additional facilities like Canteens [on employing 100 or more workers], Creche facilities [on employing 50 or more workers]; Latrines and Urinals [on employing 10 or more workers. Separate latrines or urinals are to be maintained for men and women in sufficient numbers.] etc.
- Owners of factories also have to provide the workers with protective equipment like helmets, gloves, protective eye wares etc., ensure fencing of dangerous machines, proper devices for cutting off power in cases of emergency etc., to prevent any accident and ensure the safety of the workers.
- Besides the general measures for health and safety of all workers, employers are also required to ensure the following for their women employees:
- The employers are also required to ensure a safe and discrimination free working environment for the women employees.
- Ensure the prevention of sexual harassment in their establishment. Constitute an Internal Committee for dealing with any incident of sexual harassment in the establishment.
- Provision for separate and private latrines and washing facilities for female workers.
- Provide pregnant employees maternity leave with pay for 26 weeks.
- Under the new Model Factories Rules, employers will have to provide the women factory workers with sanitary napkins.
- Women workers should not be required to work in any dangerous or hazardous processes in the factories.
- Upon providing canteen and eating facilities for employees, the employer must ensure that:
- The canteens are kept clean and hygienic.
- The food served comply with the requirements of the Food Safety and Standards Act and the Rules made thereunder.
- Food is not served in plastic utensils.
- Pure, wholesome drinking water, without any sediments or extraneous matters, is available.
- The same cooking oil is not used and reheated more than three times for making the food to be served to such workers.
Besides the above requirements under law, the Government of India has also proposed consolidated Labour Codes [Code on Wages Bill, 2017; Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, 2018; and Labour Code on Social Safety and Welfare,2018] to further regulate the crucial areas of wages payable to workers, social security and health and safety policies practised in businesses, working conditions of the labour force in the country.
As an employer, we at Lexplosion strongly believe that the best way to pay tribute to the contributions made by your workforce is by protecting their rights and by ensuring a safe, comfortable, discrimination-free working environment for them.
This document is only a broad overview of some of the important requirements under some of the labour laws, which you need to comply with.
Hope you had a nice time reading! Please reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org to have a detailed discussion.
Antara Dasgupta Ghosh – Assistant Vice President, Legal Operations
Madhura Bagchi – Senior Associate, Legal Operations