RELAXATION OF LABOUR LAWS DURING COVID-19
WRITTEN BY: SIDDHANT BHANAWAT
In this article, siddhant bhanawat of Bharti Vidhyapeeth New Law College ventures to give the readers, a brief insight of the current scenario of labor laws in India amidst COVID-19
The markets and the commercial sector have come to a deadlock amid the ever-amplifying number of covid-19 cases. Labour laws, being in the concurrent list in the constitution, we witness the state and central government striving hard to bring economy back on track and give a fillip to the business by relaxation in the labour laws. This is done with a bonafide intent to bring back the status-quo ante in terms of economy.
State-wise data of labour laws relaxation.
For almost three years, all the companies are exempted from labour laws compliance by the Uttar Pradesh cabinet.[i] To avail such exemptions, certain requisites need be fulfilled like the employer must ensure minimum wages to the workers and the time in accordance with the Payment of Wages act, 1936[ii] for the payment of wages must be adhered to. These payments must not be made in cash and should be made in the bank accounts. Various provisions such as those relating to health and safety of the workers as prescribed by the building and other construction work act and factories act 1948 will continue to manifest themselves in the employee-employer relationship.[iii] An increment in the daily working hours has been made from 48 to 72 hours a week that tantamounts to an increment in the daily working hours from 9 to 12 hours. On a misadventure happening like accident that leads to death or disability of any worker, compensation for the same will be paid under the compensation act 1923.
Gujarat too exempted the effectuation of labour laws for three years. New industries and companies established last year will be exempted from acting in consonance with the labour laws for 1200 days. Ergo, legislations which are deemed to be imperative for the prevention of exploitation such as the minimum wages act 1948, industrial safety rules and employee compensation act, 1923 will exact compliance. An online approval procedure will be set for the approval and establishment of a new industry within 15 days.
Certain relaxations[iv] will be provided under the factories act to the factories which are governed under it. Such factories will be excluded from multiple provisions like those related to the working hours, interval hours, etc. of adult workers under provisions of factories act. Factories will be able to employ their labourers for a 12-hour long shift instead of mere 8, thus the weekly limit now brims at 72 hours. No worker can be made to work for a period exceeding 6 hours without an interval of at least half hour and female workers cannot be made to work between the window of 7 pm to 6 am. Wages, proportionate to the existing wages must be given.[v]
Section 51,54,55,56 of the factories act will not be effective anymore, subject to certain conditions[vi] in Himachal Pradesh. For adults the working hours have been extended to 12 hours a day and 72 hours a week. Workers would be eligible for the overtime wages. In consonance with the minimum wages act the minimum wages will be paid in proportion as decided by the Himachal Pradesh government. Workers must get a break after a shift of 6 hours; no female will be allowed to work between 7 pm to 6 am.
New industries would and factories would now get license in a weeks’ time. There has been an extension in the payment of the wages.
Following the tend set by other states, MP has significantly increased the working hours for certain factories. Factories and industries with less than 100 workers will be not be mandated to act in harmony with the Madhya Pradesh Industrial Employment Act, 1961, that regulates the working conditions of workers. The state government has been allowed to exclude any organization or factory or establishment form the Madhya Pradesh Shram Kalyan Nidhi Adhiniyam, 1982, that mandates for the establishment of a welfare fund for labor by employers at rate of 3 rupees per six months. Certain provisions of industrial dispute act are nullified for the existing factories as well as for those which will be established in the coming 1000 days. In case of existing factories, except for the provisions relate to the retrenchment of workers, layoff’s and closure, all provisions of the act will be exempted. Upcoming factories will not be requiring permission for a lay-off but the conventional process of retrenchment and retrenchment compensation will be adhered to. For pre-existing establishments, trade union recognition and body of employers for collective bargain will be prohibited. Certain provisions of the industrial disputes act that talk of the industrial dispute resolution, industrial dispute resolution, strikes, and trade unions will be rendered ineffective for the next 1000 days. Small contractors limited to 20 employees have been exempted from the scope of the Contracts labour Madhya Pradesh rules 1973. 11 sectors have been exempted for an indefinite period from the Madhya Pradesh industrial relations act.[vii]
Initially, Punjab had announced an increment in the minimum wages of the wagers, this order was later backtracked. A similar increment in the working hours has been announced[viii]. The maximum hours a day must not exceed 13 and payment of wages must be done in accordance with the section 59 of the factories act.
State government of Uttarakhand, has relaxed multiple labour laws. Likewise, section 51,54,55,56 of the Factories act has been exempted. Social distancing, sanitization, and other protective measures will have to be adopted by the factories strictly. Payments of overtime shall be made in accordance with the already existing rules and the overtime of maximum 3 hours shall be allowed. Workers can be made to work for 6 days a week for hours totaling 24 per week.[ix]
On similar lines, the factories have been exempted under section 51,54,55,56 factories act, and working hours have been increased brimming at 12 hours a day, this is subjected to certain stipulations under section 65 (3) of factories act.[x] Wages must be paid under thr section 59 of the factories act. Social distancing and other safety measures including the sanitization msut be performed even in factories during the working hours.[xi]
For three months, the provisions of adult workers have been exempted under the factories act[xii] working hours have been augmented from 8 to 12 and an overtime of 4 hours will be permitted as the payment for the same will be in accordance with the rules already set. Maximum of 6 days a week work may be allowed and limit of overtime will be set at 24 hours a week. Movement form home to work and back shall be cut to half and will be restricted to once in the day and once in the night.[xiii]
No doubt that these adjustments are pro-industries and the labourers will have to bear the brunt of these alterations, the government has been criticized on multiple occasions for such changes, but it is imperative to understand that to reignite the economy and give a fillip to the markets, industries and factories must be kept at a loose leash, they must be provided with certain perks in such challenging circumstances. Relaxation in the labour laws will ensure that the establishments do not run out of business, which will eventually benefit the workers.
[i] Through the ordinance “Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance
[ii] Section 5 of Payment of Wages Act, 1936
[iv] he labour and employment department of Gujarat though a notification dated 17th of April, has relaxed the few provisions of the factories act, 1948 https://labour.gujarat.gov.in/Portal/News/477_1_IMG_0001.pdf
[vi] Vide notification dated 21.04.2020 the labour and employment department of Government of Himachal Pradesh https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/4997.HP_factories_rules_apr_21.pdf
[ix] In addition to the notification dated 28th April, 2020, Government of Uttarakhand Vide notification dated 5th May, 2020 has added the pointers. https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/5185.UK_factories%20Notification__5_May,https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/5185.UK_factories%20Notification__5_May,_2020.pdf
[x] vide notification dated 29th April 2020 https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/5154.HR_working_hours_apr_29.pdf