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    India is the second most populated country in the world and is home to the world’s largest youth population. These numbers give it the potential to attain the highest growth rates in the world. Then why is it that India has been unable to realize its true potential?

    Among other reasons, scholars argue that one of the major reasons for India’s slow growth rate more so, for its inability to create employment opportunities is the restrictive nature of labour regulations in India. Most firms do not wish to enter the labour intensive industries in India. This is because the current labour law regime in India demands them to ensure compliance of a large number of overlapping and sometimes contradictory state and central labour regulations.

    This inflexibility is not limited to the difficulty in compliance due to the complex nature of laws. But the natures of rights granted to the employees under the labour law regulations are also seen to be in direct contrast to the developmental needs of the country. These employee rights primarily include the regulation of minimum wages, laws regulating the termination of employees, social security laws, rights of employees to form unions, laws regulating safe and secure workplaces etc.

    India has witnessed a series of labour reforms in the past year and this streak is bound to continue in 2018. While some of these reforms have deregulated the strict mechanism of labour law regulations, many of them are a step forward in securing the social rights of workers. The cumulative effect of these reforms seems to be in line with the developmental needs of the country and the ideal of social welfare as envisaged by the Constitution makers in Part IV of the Constitution of India has been compromised. By way of these reforms, India has, on one hand, managed to improve its ranking in the Ease of Doing Business report but on the other hand, it has hit another low when it comes to the rankings given by the International Labour Organisation on Global Wage Report, social spending and labour rights.

    In this blog, the author aims to make the reader aware of some of their essential workplace rights as they exist today. Following is a list of some of the rights available to the people employed in the organized sector:

    1. Minimum Wages 

      The Minimum Wages Act fixes the minimum wage for some scheduled employments throughout India. These rates are fixed by the “appropriate government” which may be the Central or the State Government depending upon the employment type. Contravention of these statutory provisions results in imprisonment of six months and/ or penalties. The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Act, 2017 has widened the method of payment of wages by extending it to pay by cheque, or by crediting of the bank account in addition to the earlier mode of payment by cash. The Code of Wages Bill, 2017 yet to be passed by the legislature aims to unite the multiple regulations related to employee wages under one umbrella in order to make their compliance easier.

    2. Protection from Sexual Harassment at the Workplace
      The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 aims to protect the rights of female employees against sexual harassment perpetuated at their workplace. It covers both organized and unorganized sectors and includes within its ambit temporary employees, trainees, contractual workers etc.

      Sexual harassment is a criminal offence under the Act punishable by IPC upto three years with or without fines. The offence includes physical acts, sexual advances, demands for sexual favours, passing sexually colored remarks, showing pornography and any other unwelcome physical, the verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. Every employer must establish a mechanism for redressal of sexual grievances in the workplace in accordance with the Act.

    3. Work hours and overtime
      Majorly, the Factories Act lays down the rules for work hours and for payment of overtime wages. According to this Act, work exceeding 48 hours in a week and 9 hours in a day would fall under overtime and the employer is required to pay wages at a rate twice the normal wages for the overtime hours. It also restricts employment of women between 7:00 PM and 6:00 AM which may be relaxed to 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM after obtaining due permissions. A Model Shops and Establishments Bill, 2016 circulated to all States and UTs provides the freedom to run an establishment 365 days without any time restrictions. It also allows employment of women at night provided that adequate safety provisions are provided in the workplace. Maharashtra is the first state to enact this bill.
    4. Maternity leave
      The Maternity Benefit Act has been recently amended by the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017. It has increased the duration of maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks. It can now be availed 8 weeks prior (earlier 6 weeks) to the date of expected delivery. But the additional burden on the employer due to full-time wage payment to female employees for 26 weeks of leave and other benefits provided under the Act can result into an adverse impact on employment opportunities of women in the future.

    Author: Monisha Purwar

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