Occupational safety, health and working conditions code, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Santosh Kumar on 23 July 2019. It had replaced 13 existing labour laws relating to safety, health and working condition. These include:
Factories Act, 1948
Dock workers Act, 1986
Contract Labour Act, 1970
Inter-state Migrant Workers Act, 1979
This code aims to regulate the working conditions of workers across various sectors and the employment of workers. It is one of the four codes that are part of the Centre’s labour reforms agenda.
The four labour codes—on Wages, Industrial Relations, Social Security and Occupational Safety, and Health and Working Conditions—intend to provide workers with wage security, social security, safety, health and grievance redress mechanisms.
It gives the concept of “one registration” for all the establishments having ten or more employees.
It forms “the State Occupational, Safety and Health Advisory Board” at the state level to advice the State Government on the matters which arise from the administration of the proposed code.
It allows the women employees to work after 7 pm , which is at night and before 6 am and it will be subject to conditions relating to safety, holiday, working hours and their consent.
To enable the courts to give a portion of monetary penalities upto fifity per cent, to the worker who is a victim of accident or to the legal heirs of such victim in the case of his death.”
To apply the provisions of the proposed Code for all the establishments have ten or more workers, other than the establishments relating to mines and docks.
To establish the concept of “common license” for factory, contract labour, beedi and cigar establishments.
“National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory” is formed to give guidance to the Central Governments on policy matters, occupational safety, health and working conditions of workers.
Under the Occupation Safety, Health and working Conditions, every employer should provide free health checkups for their employees on an annual basis.
Workers are not required to work for more than six days a week. Further, they must get one day leave for every 20 days of week per year.
Objectives and purposes
Under this code, if the tenure of a worker is completed in a fixed-term employment, the termination of service will not be considered as retrenchment.
This code also provides all the statutory benefits to a fixed-term employment like social security, wages etc at par with the regular employees who are doing work of same or similar nature.
The code has kept the employee threshold at 100 and it has given powers to the government to reduce or increase the threshold through notification.
Under this code license must be required on the behalf of one tax return instead of one registration, one license and multiple registrations, licenses and returns required in the current 13 labor laws.
Formalization of employment, under this The Code provides for a statutory provision to issue appointment letters to every employee of the establishment.
This code focuses on the Safety and Welfare Provisions. It means that Employers are required to provide a clean working environment with ventilation, comfortable temperature and humidity, adequate space, clean drinking water, and toilets and urinal accommodation. The Code provides uniform limits for welfare provisions for all establishments. Welfare provisions include crèches, canteens, first aid, welfare officers etc.
Duties of employees include taking care of one's own health and safety, complying with specified safety and health standards, and reporting unsafe conditions to related workers.
Working hours for women, under this code Women, after their consent, will be allowed to work before 7 pm and before 6 pm subject to security, holidays, working hours or any other condition set by the state or central government.
4. Critical analysis
Many additional provisions are also seen as facilitating the exploitation of workers. For example, trainees will no longer be considered employees, although they often perform tasks assigned to contractual or permanent workers. Surprisingly, the code mentions a provision on "employees under 15". "This can be seen as a step towards legalization of child labor,"
This bill reduces safety inspections for companies employing less than 500 people. And the entire information technology sector governed by a separate Act is outside the purview of bills.
The Government's Code of Wages Bill has not laid down any formula for determining the minimum wage, except at the discretion of the Central Wage Board.
The government has also rejected the recommendation to limit the number of working hours in a day to eight. Certain provisions of the bill relating to the minimum wage refer only to their applicability to "employees" and not "workers", who are defined and considered specific.
Other experts have pointed out flaws in bills that tilt the balance in favor of employers rather than that they are intended for benefits. The Code on Wages removes the principal employer from liabilities and bypasses accountability in case of irregularities to contractors supplying workers. "This will encourage further contractualisation of labor,"
Many additional provisions are also seen as facilitating the exploitation of workers. For example, trainees will no longer be considered employees, although they often perform tasks assigned to contractual or permanent workers. Surprisingly, the code mentions a provision on "employees under 15". "This can be seen as a step towards legalization of child labor,”.
5. Scope of improvement
The Social security provisions for various sectors provided in Sectoral Laws are sought to be withdrawn and that will have a negative impact on the workers in Building Construction, Beedi, etc.
The new code is not of universal application and excludes the majority of the workers in the unorganized sector including Agricultural workers, Domestic workers, Home based workers from its scope. This seriously limits the scope of the code to bring about any significant improvement in the occupational safety and health conditions of most of the workers in the country.
The proposal to increase the number of hours of permissible over time work from 50 to 100 hours would cause serious hardship to workers and affect their health.
Night work should not be imposed on women workers without their consent.
There are no provisions regarding equal treatment for contract labourers who perform the same or similar kind of work as permanent workers in the establishment.
There is also no provision for permanent absorption of contract workers consequent upon abolition of contract work in any work, process or operation.
There is no requirement for specification of the type of work in the licence granted to the contractor. The provision relating to the conditions for the issue of licence to the contractor is unclear.
The provision permitting the Government to exempt any industry from the application of the provisions relating to the employment of contract labour is an issue of concern.
The results of this study show that health and safety at work are most important part of the workers to positively relate to the quality of working life. Employees who perceive their workplace as healthy and safe experience a high quality of working life government should fix their work place and time of work depending upon the age as well as gender based. Under this Act the safety satisfaction is likely to expand or overflow, so employees will be satisfied with other aspects both at work and outside the workplace. Government has to providing the equal opportunity for the every worker in the terms of wages, work, safety and health. Government has also needed to focus on increases the number of vacancies for the worker, where they can get more opportunity in the different field and earned more money.
These facts should be taken into account by healthcare managers when developing programs aimed at safety and health at work and aiming at improving the quality of working life.
Written By Alisha Singh, Law Intern.