Towards sustainable labour practices: Four new codes attempt to prioritise employee welfare, health, and safety in India

Towards sustainable labour practices: Four new codes attempt to prioritise employee welfare, health, and safety in India
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Our journey towards sustainability is irrevocably intertwined with labour rights and welfare. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development centres around the human rights path “that underlines the correspondingly central role of international labour standards in its realisation.”
In the last three years, India has notified four labour codes that have a significant influence on the salary structure, workplace safety, and social security. Code on Wages 2019; the Industrial Relation Code 2020, the Code on Social Security 2020, and the Occupational Safety, Health and Health and Working Conditions Code 2020.
As labour is a concurrent subject, the Centre has finalised the rules under these codes, and states are now required to frame their regulations. While numerous news reports speculated that these codes would come into effect by July 1, there hasn’t been any official confirmation on when this will happen.
According to a senior official, the four labour codes will most likely be implemented by the next fiscal year. Agencies quoted the official: "A large number of states have finalised draft rules on these. The Centre has completed the process of finalising the draft rules on these codes in February 2021. But since labour is a concurrent subject, the Centre wants the states to implement these as well in one go."

Better work-life balance

In the race to excel in our corporate and industrial roles, employees often overwork, compromising their long-term physical and psychological well-being. As per the new working conditions codes, working overtime beyond certain limits has also been prohibited.
Under the new labour codes, no worker shall be allowed to work in an establishment for more than six days in any one week. Employees have also been given an option to customise their weekends with two or three days of leaves; a two-day leave will require an employee to put in nine hours a day and get two weeks off. Now, with the customisable option, an employee can avail of a three-day off, but many have to put in 12 hours of in-office hours.
Most employees may also see significant changes in case of their earned leaves. While the government department currently grants 30 leaves per year, defence employees are entitled to 60 days of vacation per year. In some cases, employees may be able to cash up to 300 carryover holidays. However, the labour union requests that the number of carryover holidays is increased to 450.

Employee welfare code

There might also be a change to the pay scale for all employees. As the government mandates a more significant portion to be allocated as the basic salary, the contribution (both employee and employer) to the provident fund will be increased based. While this system will imply that the in-hand wages may decline in the short run, employees may see substantial growth in provident funds over the long run.

Female employees will now be eligible for 26 weeks of maternity leave. Moreover, the company cannot assign any night shifts to them without their permission and a guarantee of adequate facilities and security.
Moreover, these codes have outlined many provisions to ensure better safety and health of the labour in different sectors like manufacturing and mining. The new regulations also provide social security, create healthy working conditions, to ensure occupational safety and minimum wages for the workers. The wages due to an employee who has been (i)"removed or dismissed from service; (ii) retrenched or has resigned from service; or (iii) became unemployed due to the closure of the establishment” must be paid within two working days of such termination.
These codes align with the government’s commitment “to address the issues of the labour workforce in India, protect and safeguard the interest of the workers with due regard to create a healthy work environment for higher production and productivity”. The COVID-19 pandemic-era work-from-home policy is also in the works to enhance employee welfare and promote efficient working culture.
The new labour codes in India will have many provisions for the betterment of employees, ensuring welfare as a right step towards the long-term sustainability of businesses and their workforce. Although most stakeholders support these changes and are eagerly waiting for the laws to be implemented, some believe that certain provisions in these laws need improvement.
(With inputs from PTI)
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