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Govt moves 2 Bills in Lok Sabha to overhaul existing labour laws.

Published: July 24, 2019

Wages Code & Occupational Safety, Health Code seen benefiting 50 crore workers

The government has introduced two labour codes — the Code on Wages and the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) — in the LokSabha. The Bills, if passed, are expected to benefit about 50-crore workers. The Wages Code universalises the provision of minimum wages and their timely payment to all employees irrespective of the sector and wage ceiling. The OSH Code, among other provisions, enables women employees to make a choice on working night shifts. It also enables the courts to give a portion of monetary penalties (up to 50 per cent) to workers who are victims of accidents in the workplace, or their kin.

The government is also working on two more codes. All the four, once enacted, will subsume 44 labour laws. The Wages Code, once enacted, will subsume the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

Right to Sustenance

The Wages Code is seen to ensure the ‘Right to Sustenance’ for every worker and intends to increase the legislative protection of minimum wage from the existing 40 per cent to 100 per cent of the workforce. The introduction of a statutory Floor Wage is seen to ensure better living conditions for about 50-crore workers. At present, many States have multiple minimum wages. The Code is envisaged to simplify and rationalise the methodology to fix the minimum wages by doing away with ‘type of employment’ as a criterion. Rather, the minimum wage will be fixed primarily based on geography and skills.

Wider reach

The OSH Code will subsume 13 laws relating to factories, mines, dock workers, building workers, plantations labour, contract labour, inter-State migrant workmen, working journalists and motor transport workers, among others. It enhances the ambit of the provision of safety, health, welfare and working conditions from the existing nine major sectors to all establishments having 10 or more employees. Presently, there are different applicability thresholds for welfare provisions like crèche, canteen, first aid and welfare officer in different Acts. The proposed Code envisages uniform thresholds for welfare provision for all establishments to the extent practicable. Also, under the new Code, consent need to be taken from women to work beyond 7 pm and before 6 am.

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