This week, a considerable step will be taken towards protecting women at their workplaces. The new Labour Bill, likely to be introduced in the ongoing session of the Parliament, will devise the working hours of women to be between 6 AM and 7 PM. Beyond this, the employer would have to ensure the safety of their women employees. According to the bill, the ‘dignity and security’ of the working women is of paramount importance.
Additionally, the bill states that a woman worker cannot be called in for work on a holiday. In case of urgency, the employer needs to make sure that she is in a safe environment by enabling protected workspace and reliable commute.
The amendment also allows the employer to employ women from 9PM to 6AM, provided the firm ensures the security of the women during that time. They should be only employed in ratio of at least two women for every three men in a particular shift.
The bill also redefines the idea of a family for all employees. Benefits like medical insurance and tax deduction that were earlier extended to dependent parents only will now be available for dependent grandparents as well.
Known as the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions 2019, the bill is already cleared by the cabinet and is being inspected by the Law Ministry before introducing it to the Parliament. Currently, the Group of Ministers (GoM) has suggested changes in the bill that includes “taking the consent of the worker with respect to overtime hours.”
Welfare provision like crèche for children of the employees, providing quality food and first aid facilities at the workplace are getting due priority. According to the bill, these steps will be ensured by all establishments as far as practically feasible. The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill also considers relevant provisions of at least 13 existing Central Labour Laws.
“We have tried to make laws easier and better for the worker. We have also tried to ensure a balance between the rights of the workers and the employers. The government has given top priority to the safety of women. For working journalists, including those working in the electronic media, better wages and working conditions have been assured,” said a top official of the Labour and Employment Ministry. Several other benefits will be granted to women employees, depending on the roles they play in the company.
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The employers are also expected to provide an appointment letter to every employee and free of cost annual health check-up. These essential changes have been included in the bill after extensive consultations with all stakeholders, including the central trade unions, employers’ associations and state governments.
However, the impact of the bill on real working women is yet to be determined. We asked women around the office on what they feel about the law, and if they do not like it, what’s the solution? Here’s what they had to say:
“While I fear this bill may meet the same fate as the Maternity Bill – there was a fall in women employment after the increase in leave period – I am happy about this. Women employees end up facing an entirely different set of difficulties (or should I say exploitation) than their male counterparts, and this was the need of the hour. Such a law can lead to women taking up their desired jobs without the added pressure of thinking about how they will get back home safely, at 9 PM. Plus, with this specific time slot, women can also hope to achieve the much coveted work-life balance.”
– Ainee Nizami
“I welcome the move about transport for women after 7 p.m. Due to safety issues, a lot of women drop out of the workforce or face pressure at home, not to work. This move will help ease those concerns. However, I am worried that companies might see this as an added expense and not hire women at all. As such, the government should provide some tax benefits or incentives for companies so that more are encouraged to do so.
I also feel that just passing on the onus of women’s safety over to the companies, is not enough. The government should take active measures on the ground to ensure women’s safety as well.
– Roopal Kewalya
“I think that the proposal is beneficial but the true dialogue should be about its implementation. The reform measures put forth in the bill are much needed for the women in Indian workforce. Once the bill is passed, the companies need to make sure that it is executed to the expected level. This can also serve as a factor to rank a company and learn about its work culture.”
– Rasika Rane
Are you a working woman? Let us know what you feel about the reform.