This article provides an insight into ongoing labour market reforms in India and provides critical scrutiny upon it.There are existing 44 central labour law legislations.Government taking initiatative to rationalizing, amalgamating and simplifying protective legislature available to workers,employers have to use contract workers in core and perennial activities as per law.There are constrains relating to hiring and firing of workers, redeployment and use of contract workers and pressure from trade unions.There are also too many labour laws among which most are backdated and overlapping.There are numerous overlapping and contradictory laws that created complexities and confusion in employee and employers.Hence, we move to the analyzing some of the recent amendments brought about in few of these labour law legislations.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS CODE, 2020
This was brought about with an objective to prohibit strikes and lock-‐outs in all industrial establishments.A provision has been made on the need to give a notice of fourteen days the employer has been provided with the flexibility to employ workers on fixed term basis, based on requirement and without restriction on any sector.There are a lot of complexities and confusion in employee and employers, workers unable to claim their share and are not getting fair treatment.Lack of monitoring mechanism.Amend the laws regulating the Occupational safety and health and working conditions of the persons employed in an establishment. The Act replaces 13 old central labour laws.
CODE ON SOCIAL SECURITY, 2020
The Pandemic had pushed informal workers into severe poverty and debt burden due to loss of livelihoods.Social security arrangements could have saved them from the misery. Such as free basic curative care in public clinics and hospitals,elderly had old-age pensions,disability insurance or life insurance,minimum income guarantee.However, an unprepared government had made them helpless.Even the social security code 2020 passed in parliament in September 2020 is short of providing universal social security for informal workers.
A number of defects was found with the amendment to this particular legislation. Some of them are as follows, firstly,although the Code aims to extend social security to all workers but no concrete scheme has been identified for such workers.Secondly, procedure for social security to domestic workers -simple and user friendly- else, large exclusion of such workers.Thirdly,information relating to workers rights and entitlements should be disseminated widely through mass media, local NGO’s, workers unions etc. is not yet done.Despite these,monitoring mechanism has been strengthened for better compliance.First, it is just a merger of existing social security laws and does little to provide universal social security for informal workers.The SS Code 2020 amalgamates and rationalizes the provisions of eight existing central labour laws.Even in the new scheme the employee’s provident fund, employees state insurance (ESI), maternity benefit, gratuity still remain only for organised sector workers.Only a subtle change has been done to include informal workers within the ambit of social security administration.
Second, the SS 2020 scheme takes little consideration to solve the existing hurdles for informal workers in accessing Social security schemes. For instance,The legal framework, as proposed in the Code and Rules, implies that the basic onus lies on informal workers registering as beneficiaries. It makes registration a prerequisite for universal coverage to avail social security.However, it has failed to understand the underlying problem faced by the informal workers while making registration.Most informal workers lack digital literacy and connectivity. Hence, providing them the option for Online registration will make the Social security scheme a failure.Further, furnishing proof of livelihood and income details in the absence of tangible employer-employee relations is also very difficult.Similar provisions are already there in existing social security schemes run by State governments under the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.Yet, many informal workers are outside the ambit of any social security because of the failure to address their concerns.
Third, unorganised workers are spread across the length and breadth of India. However, the code does not address the need for inter-State arrangements and cooperation for providing social security net.Fourth, Under the SS Code, the provision of maternity benefits has not been made universal. Maternity benefit is presently applicable for establishments employing 10 workers or more. The definition of ‘Establishment’ in the proposed code did not include the unorganised sector. Hence, women engaged in the unorganised sector would remain outside the purview of maternity benefit.Fifth, The SS Code maintains that the Employees’ Provident Fund Scheme will remain applicable, as before, to every establishment in which 20 or more employees are employed.Thus, for informal sector workers, access to employees’ provident fund remains unfulfilled in the new code.
Sixth, although payment of gratuity was expanded in the new Code, it still remains inaccessible for a vast majority of informal workers.The code fails to recognise that India is ageing without social security. The demographic dividend of the young workforce that could support the ageing will also end in 15 years. Hence, it’s a priority for India to institutionalize a Universal social security arrangement
Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020
Monitoring mechanism is present under this Code.The constitution of national and state Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Boards was provisioned in this.It introduces the concept of “one registration” for all establishments having 10 or more employees & concept of “common licence” which is a uniform all India licence for engaging contract labours.There is also provision for issuance of a mandatory appointment letter and promote formalisation in employment, provide free annual health check‐ups for employees ,permit night shifts for women from 7.00pm to 6.00am, subject to the fulfillment of required conditions relating to safety, holidays and working hours, and the consent of women workers
India has replaced 29 of previously existing labour laws with 4 codes.Such changes in labour laws should facilitate ease of doing business in the country,flexibility of hiring workers will also increase while ensuring even unorganised workers, gig workers and the platform workers, receive social security. The increasing use of technology for the effective enforcement of the provisions is intended to ensure transparency and accountability.The arguments for implementing labour reforms are to enable from a negative regulatory regime to a more positive inspector and facilitator approach.
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