The Fundamental and Lawful Rights Under Indian Labour Laws
With its vast and dynamic workforce, India has been dedicated to establishing an intricate legal framework aimed at balancing the scales between workers’ rights and the interests of employers. The Indian Labour Laws landscape has evolved over time reflecting the socio-economic shifts and emerging industrial paradigms. Here we discuss the core principles, fundamental rights and lawful regulations laid out under Indian Labour Law, emphasizing their significance in today’s industrial age.
An Overview of Indian Labour Laws
Indian Labour Laws have their roots in the colonial era with the earliest legislations focusing on the welfare and rights of workers. Post-independence, a series of comprehensive laws were introduced reflecting the aspirations of a newly sovereign nation.
Recent years have witnessed a significant overhaul in India’s labour laws. With the introduction of new labour codes, the government aims to simplify regulations thus offering enhanced protection to workers while providing employers with increased flexibility.
The Push for Consolidation: The Four Labour Codes
In recent years, there has been a significant push towards streamlining and simplifying labour regulations. The Indian government, recognizing the multiplicity and often overlapping nature of existing laws, has introduced four major labour codes to consolidate and replace the existing 44 labour laws:
The Code on Wages, 2019
This code consolidates laws relating to wages and bonus and ensures that workers receive timely payment of wages and covers both the organized and the unorganized sectors.
- Universal Minimum Wage: It introduces a universal minimum wage across all sectors and states ensuring that no worker, regardless of the industry or location, receives a wage below this minimum threshold.
- Payment of Wages: The code mandates that employers must pay wages to their workers before the 7th of every month. It also prescribes that wages should be paid through banking channels, promoting transparency and documentation.
- Gender Discrimination: The code prohibits gender discrimination in matters of wages and recruitment ensuring equal pay for equal work regardless of gender.
- Advisory Boards: It mandates the setup of advisory boards at both central and state levels. These boards will have representatives from employers, employees and independent persons. Their role will be to advise on various issues, including the fixation of minimum wages.
The Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, 2020
This code consolidates and amends the laws regulating the occupational safety, health, and working conditions of persons employed in an establishment.
- Applicability: The code applies to all establishments employing 10 or more workers, except in hazardous industries where the threshold is lowered.
- Duties of Employers: Employers are mandated to provide a working environment that is free from hazards. They are also responsible for ensuring the health, safety and welfare of all workers.
- Rights of Workers: The code gives workers the right to receive information related to safety measures and the right to undergo training. They also have the right to report unsafe conditions.
- Working Hours: The code standardizes the working hours with a maximum limit of 8 hours per day.
The Industrial Relations Code, 2020
It aims to consolidate and amend the laws relating to trade unions, conditions of employment in an industrial establishment or undertaking, investigation, and settlement of industrial disputes.
- Negotiation Union: In cases where there are multiple trade unions, the code introduces the concept of a “negotiation union” which would be the sole union representing the workers in negotiations with the employer.
- Strike Provisions: The code mandates that a 60-day notice is required for strikes in essential services.
- Fixed-term Employment: The code introduces “fixed-term employment,” allowing employers to hire workers based on contracts without any discrimination in terms of statutory benefits.
The Code on Social Security, 2020
This code seeks to amend and consolidate the laws relating to social security, with the aim to extend social security to all employees and workers either in the organized or unorganized sectors.
- Universal Social Security: The code brings both organized and unorganized sector workers under its ambit. It also introduces measures for the welfare of gig workers and platform workers.
- Gratuity for Fixed-term Employees: It mandates that fixed-term employees will be eligible for gratuity on a pro-rata basis, without the condition of continuous service for five years.
- Maternity Benefit: The code includes provisions for maternity benefits, which include 26 weeks of paid leave for women.
- Social Security Funds: It provides for the establishment of various funds, such as the Employees’ Provident Fund, the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation Fund, and the Gratuity Fund.
Recent Developments and Implications
The introduction of the new labour codes in India is a historic move towards consolidating and modernizing the myriad labour laws that previously existed. These reforms, while aiming to simplify the regulatory framework, also seek to ensure the welfare and rights of workers. Here are the recent developments and the implications of these new labour codes:
#1 Flexibility in Hiring and Termination
- Development: The Industrial Relations Code introduces provisions that allow companies to hire on fixed-term contracts.
- Implication: This offers flexibility for industries that see seasonal demand. However, it raises concerns about job security for workers, even though they are promised the same benefits as permanent workers.
#2 Universal Minimum Wage
- Development: The Code on Wages introduces a universal minimum wage across all sectors and regions.
- Implication: This aims to reduce the wage disparity across different sectors and geographies. However, the practical implementation across diverse sectors and regions remains a challenge.
#3 Social Security for All
- Development: The Code on Social Security seeks to extend social security benefits to all workers, including those in the unorganized sector and gig economy.
- Implication: This is a significant move towards providing a safety net for all workers, especially in the gig economy. It acknowledges the changing nature of employment in the modern economy.
#4 Industrial Relations and Dispute Resolutions
- Development: The new code has introduced provisions that mandate a 60-day notice period for strikes in essential services and emphasizes dispute resolution through negotiations and tripartite bodies.
- Implication: While it provides a structured mechanism for dispute resolution, the restrictions on strikes have been seen as curbing the rights of workers in essential services.
#5 Safety, Health, and Working Conditions
- Development: The Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code consolidates provisions related to the safety, health, and working conditions of workers.
- Implication: This is a move towards creating a standardized and comprehensive framework for worker welfare. It mandates employers to ensure a hazard-free work environment, which is particularly significant for workers in hazardous industries.
#6 Easier Compliance for Employers
- Development: The codes aim to reduce the regulatory burden on employers by introducing provisions like a single licensing mechanism and an online compliance portal.
- Implication: This will likely encourage compliance and ease of doing business. However, effective implementation and monitoring are crucial to ensure that worker rights are not compromised.
#7 Grievance Redressal and Enforcement Mechanisms
- Development: The codes emphasize the establishment of robust grievance redressal mechanisms. They also enhance the penalties for non-compliance.
- Implication: This strengthens the enforcement of labour rights and ensures that violations are adequately penalized. It instils a sense of accountability among employers.
#8 Inclusion of Advisory Boards
- Development: The codes mandate the setting up of advisory boards with representation from employers, employees, and independent persons.
- Implication: This is a step towards inclusive decision-making and ensures that policies and regulations are framed considering all stakeholders.
Conclusion on Indian Labour Laws
The Indian labour laws, with their intricate web of rights and protections ensure a balanced ecosystem where both employers and employees can coexist harmoniously. While the recent reforms have been introduced with the right intentions, their successful implementation will require vigilance thus ensuring that the rights of the workers are not compromised. As India continues its journey of economic growth, its labour laws will undoubtedly remain pivotal in shaping the nation’s industrial future.