Labour laws are designed to protect the rights of workers and ensure their safety and welfare in the workplace. In India, the labour laws have undergone several changes in the past 18 months. This article aims to provide an overview of the labour laws in India and highlight the significant changes seen so far.
Overview of Labour Laws in India
India has a comprehensive framework of labour laws that regulate employment and working conditions in various sectors. These laws provide protection to workers in areas such as wages, social security, occupational health and safety, and working conditions. Some of the important labour laws in India are:
- The Minimum Wages Act, 1948: This Act ensures that workers are paid a minimum wage for the work they do, irrespective of the industry or sector.
- The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947: This Act provides a mechanism for the settlement of industrial disputes between employers and workers.
- The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948: This Act provides for the establishment of a fund to provide social security benefits such as medical care, sickness, maternity, and death benefits to employees.
- The Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952: This Act provides for the establishment of a fund for the benefit of employees and their families.
- The Factories Act, 1948: This Act regulates working conditions in factories and provides for the safety, health, and welfare of workers.
- The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972: This Act provides for the payment of gratuity to employees who have completed five years of continuous service with an employer.
Recent Changes in Labour Laws in India
The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant economic slowdown have led to significant changes in India’s labour laws. Some of the significant changes are:
- The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020: The Indian government passed this Code in September 2020, which consolidates and rationalises 13 central labour laws relating to safety, health and working conditions of workers. This code aims to provide a comprehensive framework for the safety, health and welfare of workers in the organised sector.
- The Industrial Relations Code, 2020: The Indian government also passed this Code in September 2020, which replaces three existing labour laws – the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Trade Unions Act, 1926, and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. This code aims to simplify the labour laws and promote ease of doing business in India.
- The Code on Social Security, 2020: The Indian government passed this Code in September 2020, which replaces nine existing labour laws related to social security. This code aims to extend social security benefits to all workers, including those in the unorganised sector.
- Suspension of Labour Laws: In May 2020, several Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat suspended several labour laws for a period of three years. The aim of this move was to attract investment and promote economic growth. However, this move was criticised by trade unions and labour rights activists, who argued that it would lead to the exploitation of workers.
- Changes in the Definition of Wages: In August 2021, the Indian government amended the definition of wages under the Code on Wages, 2019. The new definition excludes allowances such as house rent, travel, and overtime pay from the calculation of wages. This move was criticised by trade unions, who argued that it would lead to a decrease in the take-home pay of workers.
In conclusion, the labour laws in India have undergone significant changes in the last 18 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic slowdown. While some of these changes aim to provide a comprehensive framework for the safety, health, and welfare of workers, others have been criticised for potentially leading to the exploitation of workers. As India continues to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and its economic impact, it is crucial to ensure that the rights and welfare of workers are protected and promoted through the country’s labour laws.