Govt moves 2 Bills in Lok Sabha to overhaul existing labour laws
24 July 2019
The government has introduced two labour codes — the Code on Wages and the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) — in the Lok Sabha, as part of an overhaul of the existing plethora of labour laws.
The Wages Code provides for the provision of minimum wages and their timely payment to all employees, irrespective of the sector, type of job or wage ceiling while the OSH Code, among other provisions, enables women employees to make a choice on working night shifts.
It also enables the courts to give a portion of monetary penalties (up to 50 per cent) to workers who are victims of accidents in the workplace, or their kin. It expands the definition of family to include dependent grandparents
Together the two bills, once passed, are expected to benefit about 500 million workers.
The government is also working on two more labour codes. All the four, once enacted, will subsume 44 labour laws.
The Wages Code, once enacted, will subsume the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. At present, many states have multiple minimum wages.
The Wages Code is meant to ensure the ‘Right to Sustenance’ for every worker and to increase the legislative protection of minimum wage from the existing 40 per cent to 100 per cent of the workforce. The introduction of a statutory Floor Wage is seen to ensure better living conditions for about 500 million workers.
The Code is envisaged to simplify and rationalise the methodology to fix the minimum wages by doing away with ‘type of employment’ as a criterion. Rather, the minimum wage will be fixed primarily based on geography and skills.
The OSH Code will subsume 13 laws relating to factories, mines, dock workers, building workers, plantations labour, contract labour, inter-state migrant workmen, working journalists and motor transport workers, among others. It enhances the ambit of the provision of safety, health, welfare and working conditions from the existing nine major sectors to all establishments having 10 or more employees.
T present, there are different applicability thresholds for welfare provisions like crèche, canteen, first aid and welfare officer in different Acts. The proposed Code envisages uniform thresholds for welfare provision for all establishments to the extent practicable.
Also, under the new Code, consent need to be taken from women to work beyond 7 pm and before 6 am.