In recent developments post the winter session of the Rajya Sabha in 2021, Union Labour Minister Bhupendra Yadav announced that nearly 13 Indian states have already complied with the draft rules of the new Indian labour code. The new labour laws that have been proposed to be implemented starting the fiscal year of 2022-23 is viewed as the biggest change to our labour laws in Indian history.
The new labour code includes the code of wages, industrial relations code, the code on social security, and the occupational safety, health, and working conditions code.
The government is replacing the existing 29 labour laws with the four labour codes that were mentioned above. While government claims state that this new labour code would further simplify governance and bring about uniformity in labour rights country-wide, netizens are taking this reform with a pinch of salt.
Here’s what you need to know about the labour code:
I. A Proposed Four-Day Workweek
The current workweek may be reduced to 4 days with the implementation of the new code while retaining the same number of work hours. This could push organisations to explore the idea of making 12-hour workdays the new norm.
This move is under scrutiny for the latest code has removed its earlier limits on overtime work making the employee’s right to refuse overtime work almost insignificant.
II. Restrictions On Unionising, Strikes, & Notice Periods
With the implementation of the new Industrial Relations Code, there will be severe restrictions on workers to unionise or to even rightfully choose their own trade union leaders. It also gives the government arbitrary powers to cancel registration for trade unions.
Furthermore, the new IR code also implies that no industrial employee shall go on strike without a 60-day notice, prolonging the employee’s right to go on legal strike.
III. Amends to Social Security
This particular amendment makes Aadhar card mandatory amongst all employees who wish to avail of social security benefits. The code also directly excludes scheme workers, part-time workers, and agricultural workers from the provided benefits.
The contribution rate towards an employee’s provident fund has also been reduced from 12%-10% of the wage thereby directly reducing the in-hand salary of the workers.
IV. Workplace Safety
Amongst the most concerning codes, the code that discusses job security has been widely criticised. This law grants establishments to now ‘contractualise’ even permanent workers that can strip away the safety and benefits that were offered to permanent employees up until now.
In addition to this, the central government will soon become the sole authoritative power that prescribes safety standards for all types of workplaces without having to legally specify it.
“Now establishments with less than 500 workers are not even required to have an ambulance at the ready; canteens are required only in establishments with 100 or more workers; lunch and restrooms are required only in establishments with 50 or more workers. Evidently, workers in small enterprises do not need medical attention, food, or rest.”— An excerpt from an article by the All India IT & ITeS Employees Union.
The government’s move is well sanctioned by its positive claims on creating universality and uniformity to labour functioning in the country. However, a deeper study between the lines labour codes reveals several disparities and exclusions that could prove to be detrimental to labour functioning and employee morale in our country.
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